The Four Corners of Conflict: Protests and Counter-Protests in Front of Planned Parenthood

A sign is held by a pro-life protestor opposite to supporters of Planned Parenthood.

As pro-life protestors and counter-protestors faced off in front of Planned Parenthood on Saturday, the President and CEO of the health care organization held her own counter-protest.

CEO and President of Planned Parenthood Joan Malin said that both protests were disruptive and made it difficult for patients to walk in.

“Both sides, protesting in front of a healthcare center, just doesn’t help people,” she said. “We talked about it and we strongly encouraged them not to, and they felt very strongly, they wanted to be here. But I would’ve preferred for them to carry out their march at Washington Square Park.”

Planned Parenthood volunteers standing outside the doors for patients during the protests.

Protests continued despite the opposition of Planned Parenthood’s foremost leader. Two groups of protestors faced off at the intersection, one calling for the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood and the other defending the healthcare provider.

Katie Hartman was one counter-protestor supporting Planned Parenthood after discovering pre-cancer cells on her cervix when she first moved to New York City as young and uninsured.

“They took care of me and with two out-patient surgeries, I am cancer free. Planned Parenthood, quite literally, saved my life,” said Katie.

Katie called for the protection of federal funds for Planned Parenthood so that all women have access to abortion.

“Abortions are avaliable from private practioniers,” Katie said. “But when they’re not available to the public or not free or not tax-payer funded, you end up with more unplanned pregnancies and with more families with beyond the need to take care of them.”

Katie Hartman with counter-protestors for Planned Parenthood.

On the other side of the intersection, protestors like Rebecca Null continued to oppose Planned Parenthood and the counter-protestors.

“I am against abortion, I think it’s wrong. I think it’s sort of the great tragedy in our nation,” Rebecca said.

“The choice they want to give women, I think it’s wrong.” Rebecca added, “We really do want to give women more choices. You’re not giving a woman, who wants to keep her child or wants to have an abortion, choices, whether she wants to raise that child if she wants to keep it, or an easier path to adoption.”

Protestors alike not only opposed funding for abortion services, but family planning services like contraception and birth control.

“I don’t think that’s a right that should get covered. If those people want to buy it on their own, they can. But I don’t think I should pay for something I don’t agree with,” said Rebecca.

Rebecca also suggested making private donations Go Fund Me to cover the costs of birth control and contraception as an alternative to Planned Parenthood services.

Protestors standing in prayer across from Planned Parenthood.

Protestor John Picciochi also questioned the federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

“If they have insurance and they have their private doctors, why would they need federal funding?” asked John.

Contraception services and kits from Planned Parenthood receive federal funding by Medicaid and Title X, two programs aimed at supporting low-income families in America. As of 2012, 79 percent of patients had incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, according to a report on health care funding released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Protestors cited Expenctant Mother Care (EMC) as an alternative to Planned Parenthood that excludes abortion services. Corporate headquakers of EMC is based on Yonkers, with two additional locations in South Bronx and Brookyn. The pregnancy center is run by a staff of 15 people with 5 certified nurses. Since its founding in 1985, EMC has served 150,000 patients — an average of 4,687 patients per year.

“We provide pregnancy testing, STD testing, ultra sounds, helping getting insurance covered, women who need referrels or help getting insurance,” said Chris Slattery, the CEO and Founder of EMC. The health center does not, however, provide abortions or access to birth control or contraception.

Patients served by EMC are surpassed by Planned Parenthood by almost 2000 percent. Planned Parenthood provides services to a total of 9,455,582 patients according to their annual 2015 report.

Planned Parenthood centers also serve 36 percent of all clients obtaining care from publically or federally funded family planning centers, more than any other type of provider.

Guttmacher Institute comparing health centers with family planning services.

If neither federal nor private organizations are able to meet the patient demand that Planned Parenthood, the future of access to family services seems uncertain.

Joan Malin, however, seemed certain about the future of Planned Parenthood.

“We’re one-hundred years old, we’re going to be here for another hundred years,” Malin said. “We may look different in some ways but I am firmly convinced that we will be here and our doors will be open.”