More than 500 abortion opponents demonstrated at the governor’s residence in St. Paul on Wednesday, demanding that Mark Dayton investigate Planned Parenthood and calling for legislators to defund the organization.
Summit Avenue traffic was blocked from 4 to 6 p.m. as protesters gathered, condemning abortion and Planned Parenthood’s purported sale of fetal tissue to medical researchers, a practice that the organization says has been distorted by opponents.
“God has a plan for every baby conceived and born,” said the Rev. Timothy Vang, of the Hmong American Church. “Selling the body parts of babies is morally wrong. No argument can make it right.”
Protesters, some carrying signs depicting bloody fetuses or messages such as “unborn lives matter,” heard calls to action from Brian Gibson of Pro-Life Action Ministries and a long line of pastors urging them to phone the governor every day and pray outside Planned Parenthood facilities. Dozens of children, some in school uniforms, attended with their parents.
Calling Planned Parenthood “exploitive” and “evil,” Gibson said “it’s time to tell [Dayton] to do his job, and if he doesn’t like investigating only Planned Parenthood, then it’s time to investigate all the abortion mills.”
Dayton, who had meetings and wasn’t at the residence, supports abortion rights. In 2012, he vetoed two abortion bills, one that would have required the state to inspect abortion clinics and another that would have required a doctor be present when Plan B or abortion pills are administered.
Protesters addressed Dayton directly in their push for an outside investigation. Some demanded repeal of the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade, which established a legal right to abortion.
Videos released this summer that purported to show Planned Parenthood’s national medical director discussing the sale of fetal tissue to medical researchers renewed national opposition to abortion, including a large rally last month at Planned Parenthood offices in St. Paul.
Planned Parenthood has argued that the videos were heavily edited, taken out of context and have been discredited by forensic experts. The organization’s local affiliate, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, has stressed that it has never had a fetal-tissue donation program.
In response to Wednesday’s protest, local Planned Parenthood President Sarah Stoesz released a statement calling an investigation “unwarranted.”
“[The rally] is nothing but more of the same from a vocal minority who have been working in Minnesota for decades to deny women access to abortion. Their agenda is, and has always been, to ban abortion and undermine Planned Parenthood.”
In an interview after the rally, Stoesz called the videos a smear campaign that caused a “temporary disruption” this summer. However, she said, national support for Planned Parenthood remains “broad and deep.”
And while Minnesota doesn’t have a fetal-tissue donation program, Stoesz said she supports medical research and scientific progress. “There isn’t a person in our entire country who hasn’t benefited from fetal tissue research,” she said.
Women holding signs saying “I regret my abortion” stood in the front row of the rally and at least one shared her story with the crowd. She, like Ramona Porter, said she felt immense guilt after the procedure and realized medical personnel hadn’t been forthcoming enough about the fetus’ development.
While young and unwed in Dallas, Porter sought advice about her pregnancy from female church parishioners who urged her to get an abortion rather than choose adoption for her baby, she said.
It wasn’t what she wanted, but they made her appointment for her, and physicians described the fetus as “just a clump of cells,” she said.
“They led me to the clinic like a lamb is led to the slaughter,” Porter said, recalling her first abortion 36 years ago. “I didn’t know what I was in for.”
After moving to Sauk Centre, Minn., Porter became an abortion opponent and says attending these rallies helps the healing process for herself and others.