Separated by metal barricades, hundreds of supporters of legal abortion and the activists who want it outlawed held dueling rallies outside Planned Parenthood’s St. Paul clinic on Good Friday.
Sporting pink hats, signs and shirts, Planned Parenthood advocates yelled chants like “my body, my choice!” as they marched outside the clinic that provides sexual and reproductive health services to more than 11,000 people each year. Less than 30 feet away, abortion opponents marched to Christian hymns while some in the crowd lifted a large cross.
The opposing Good Friday rallies have become an annual practice outside of the nonprofit organization’s St. Paul location. Planned Parenthood representatives and supporters use the day to stand in solidarity and raise money for the organization.
Past “Solidarity Day” events have raised around $20,000, according to Jennifer Aulwes, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. Organizers estimated more than 1,200 supporters attended Planned Parenthood’s march throughout the day.
DFL Rep. Tim Walz, a 2018 gubernatorial hopeful, attended Planned Parenthood’s Friday rally with his daughter Hope. Walz said the nonprofit serves as the primary source of health care for many of his rural constituents.
“I’m here to make a stand in solidarity on reproductive rights,” he said. Other DFL politicians also showed up in support of Planned Parenthood, including state Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul, another candidate for governor.
Beth-Ann Bloom, a 62-year-old Woodbury resident who attended the Planned Parenthood march, said women should be able to make their own decisions.
“I come every year because I think it’s wrong that my fellow Christians use the holiest day of our year to assault women getting health care,” Bloom said.
Sixty-year-old Ann Marie Cosgrove of Minneapolis is an abortion opponent who’s attended the rally since 2003. Cosgrove said she had an abortion in 1983 and attends the march to proclaim “the truth of what abortion does.”
Cosgrove said she experienced depression and suicidal thoughts in the 12 years following her abortion, and she thinks the procedure should be outlawed.
“I’ve been speaking out since 1995 about the truth of what abortion does. It takes the life of an innocent child and destroys a family,” she said.
New Hope resident Evie Schwartzbauer, 31, joined the anti-abortion march because she said she wanted to hear from demonstrators on the other side.
“I would love to get at their reasons for why they are pro-choice,” she said. “If they’re for human rights, then they would be for all humans and not be discriminatory against the youngest of us.”
Ryan Faircloth is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.