Early Saturday morning approximately 30 abortion opponents from throughout Michigan were met with an overwhelming number of about 400 abortion rights advocates, mostly from Ann Arbor, chanting, “My body, my choice” along the sidewalks in front of west Ann Arbor’s Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that offers reproductive health care services as well as testing for STIs, breast cancer screenings and services for the LGBTQ community.
The abortion opponent rally was initiated by the national organization Protest Planned Parenthood, which aims to defund Planned Parenthood and tax-funded abortions. Planned Parenthood provides health care for women and only three percent of their budget goes towards abortions. The event was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. which concluded at about 10:30 a.m.
A counter-rally was organized in response by the local organization Stop Trump Ann Arbor, which seeks to defend the abortion services of Planned Parenthood. Its event to defend Planned Parenthood was scheduled to organize an hour earlier starting at 8 a.m. and lasting until about 10:30 a.m.
Jessica Prozinski, a founder of Stop Trump Ann Arbor, organized and led the abortion rights counter-rally over the course of three weeks. In a rebuttal to defend the services of Planned Parenthood, Prozinski said her motivations for organizing the counter-rally were the importance and immediate concern for the safety and health of women who have abortions.
“We will not go back to the days of back-alley abortions and coat-hanger atrocities,” Prozinski said. “There is no way we’re going back and we’re building a new integrative women’s movement to fight for women’s rights and for the rights of all people.”
Prozinski also shared how the counter-rally is just one-step forward in the movement for women’s health and how people’s perspectives across the country are changing.
“We are going to keep fighting from keeping the forces of reaction from claiming our country,” Prozinski said. “We’re going to build a new social movement to make our country finally equal and democratic.”
Ypsilanti resident Mariel de Soleil, a member of the local organization Citizens for Pro-Life Society, got the idea of organizing a local rally from the national movement and sought support through the effort through emails to friends and colleagues. De Soleil said her motivation and reasoning behind protesting the attempt at defunding the organization stems from what she describes as corruption.
“They’re criminal,” de Soleil said. “It’s a corrupt organization and if you Google ‘Planned Parenthood crime’ you will come up with 550 hits. We want the 550 million dollars plus of our taxpayer money to go to, to be redirected, to be shifted to other health clinics that do comprehensive care. Defund, shift the money, end of story.”
De Soleil commented that she, along with the other protesters, are not discouraged at all by the sheer number of attendees of the counter-rally.
“I feel energized,” de Soleil said. “All over the United States there are people standing for life and it doesn’t matter to me the number. To me we’re on the side of good and that is protecting human beings in the womb. So, yeah, I’m feeling good.”
De Soleil also mentioned she has marched with the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center and has taught self-defense classes to college-aged women.
Students from the University also came out in large numbers in support of the abortion rights rally. Law students Lauren Powell and Rebecca Michael expressed their motivation for supporting the rally as people who have both relied and used the services offered by Planned Parenthood.
“They kept me safe and healthy,” Michael said. “I actually specifically used the Planned Parenthood in Ann Arbor both in high school and in undergrad, so I wanted to show support for the organization that’s been so good to me.”
Both students iterated the high number of supporters of Planned Parenthood throughout the Law School and the University community was encouraging.
“I would say the majority of students, especially female students that I talk to, are in support of Planned Parenthood,” Powell said.