At noon on Saturday, 75 high school students, Ann Arbor residents and anti-abortion advocates gathered for a protest and vigil outside two Planned Parenthood facilities in Ann Arbor.
Saturday marked the second day of the annual National Day of Prayer and Protest Against Planned Parenthood. Anti-abortion groups — in conjunction with the nationwide organization ProtestPP — gathered at more than 150 Planned Parenthood facilities across the country to mark the day. They called for Congress to terminate federal funding to the organization and reallocate funds to women’s health centers that do not support abortion.
According to its website, ProtestPP consists of state and local anti-abortion groups that organized in 2015, surrounding Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the trafficking of aborted babies’ body parts.
Monica Migliorino Miller, the director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, was one of the protest’s national organizers. Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, as well as anti-abortion groups Created Equal and the Pro-Life Action League are the primary sponsors and organizers of ProtestPP.
Miller, stationed at the rally outside the facility on Professional Drive — the larger of the two protests — said the goal of the rally was to combat abortions at Planned Parenthood.
“For us, it’s not about the STD testing obviously, it’s not even about contraception, it’s not even about the sexual ethic that is promoted by Planned Parenthood,” she said. “It’s about abortion… We feel that an organization that discriminates against a people group — as they do against the unborn, to the point where they actually exterminate this people group — shouldn’t receive one red cent of federal funding. That’s what this is about.”
Miller further explained the group aimed to promote the funding of other women’s health care clinics.
“We want to see (Planned Parenthood) defunded of that 5 hundred million dollars a year, and what’s really important for us is we want to see that money going to community healthcare centers that are approved by the federal government,” she said
The Crusaders for Life, an anti-abortion youth group based in Chicago, comprised the majority of rally attendees. According to their website, this group is “committed to educating themselves on all life issues in order to defend life with confidence and conviction.”
The group’s leader Father Nathan Caswell said Crusaders for Life was invited by the local pro-life advocates to be a part of the day’s rally. He said the group attended the event to promote their message — encouraging the beauty and joy of life.
“[We] put on rallies to show the beauty of life and the joy of life,” he said. “Right now the issue is abortion but it’s bigger than that. It’s not about just the fact that killing a child in the womb is killing, but every person’s life is worth something. That’s why we are here.”
The group displayed a large yellow sign that read “Life is Beautiful” and yellow balloons with the word “Life.”
Other signs included "Every life matters" and "My heart started beating at 3 weeks."
In addition to participating in cheers, Caswell led a prayer. He explained the prayer was meant to bless those who do not experience love and who feel their lives may not be valuable.
“I ask our Lord to bless Ann Arbor and to bless this country, and to provide light and love to all those who are not experiencing love in their life, who feel alone — that God would bless them,” he said.
Paul Dobrowolski, the director of Sidewalk Advocates for Life in Ann Arbor, emphasized the reason for wanting to defund Planned Parenthood is to decrease number of abortions.
“We’re out here to try to get the word out about Planned Parenthood,” he said. “The more money we give them, the more abortions increase, and other services are decreasing. That’s just from their annual reports.”
Dobrowolski said as Planned Parenthood has received more money since 2006, the number of abortions performed has also increased as well, while the number of breast exams and pap tests have decreased.
Local resident Susan Randolph said she has been part of the pro-life movement for many years. She said the rally was for women and babies.
“We’re not out here not for ourselves but because we love moms, we love babies, we love our country and we really care about the future of all,” she said.
Around 1:45 p.m. the group began to march down Washtenaw Avenue.
A handful of people also turned up in front of the Planned Parenthood facility on Stadium Boulevard.
Among the protesters, Ann Arbor resident Wayne Slomiany said he and his wife “gravitate” toward organizations that support those who are innocent.
“[I’ve] been for the disadvantaged and those who are innocent, who don’t have an opportunity to live since Roe v. Wade,” he said. “[We] really need to help people refocus on the sanctity of life — how valuable life is and how important life is.”