Anti-choice activists across the nation declared this past Saturday, February 11, the “National Day of Protest Against Planned Parenthood.”
Though the number of anti-choice protesters present at the only remaining abortion clinic in Missouri was higher than normal, their tactics remained the same: blocking the driveway from allowing patients to enter the health-care facility, as well as passing out inaccurate literature to individuals attempting to access reproductive health-care services.
In response, pro-choice advocates took to the streets in support of Planned Parenthood. St. Louis alone had over 4,000 people show up in solidarity of the health-care provider.
NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, however, decided to take Saturday’s “day of protest” in a different direction.
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At 9:00 a.m., we showed up at ThriVe St. Louis, one of 63 anti-abortion clinics, commonly known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), in Missouri and an organization that regularly protests at Planned Parenthood. We were greeted by a barricade surrounding the CPC, security officers, and its sound system blaring “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King, before it switched to Christian music.
One hundred pro-choice activists showed up for the action, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, CPCs have got to go” and “Our bodies, our lives; Missouri needs to defund ThriVe.” Opponents of CPCs and their shameful methods held their signs high in front of the building, signs that read: “ThriVe Lies,” “MO Women Deserve Choice,” and “This Is a Fake Clinic.”
This group of pro-choice activists showed up because we are tired of CPCs that continue to lie and shame women and families making important reproductive health-care decisions, by giving them sensationalized propaganda that leaves out information on contraception and abortion. We are tired of CPCs receiving over $6 million in state funding, more than $4 million of which was redirected from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. This was money that could be better put toward feeding hungry children and families in Missouri, as households here became the hungriest they have been in decades, according to a 2016 report.
We are also tired of the statements made by anti-choice leaders like the president of ThriVe, Bridget VanMeans, who has joked that its employees lie to women and said that ThriVe reaches out to communities of color by switching the photo that’s displayed on vans depending on the neighborhood they are in, all the while praising the Ku Klux Klan for its support.
This action was a continuation of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri’s efforts to call out CPCs and the elected officials who continue to fund them. In 2012, we released a report about CPCs in St. Louis and Mid-Missouri and the tactics that they use to prevent individuals from receiving comprehensive reproductive health care. These include providing medically inaccurate facts about birth control, condoms, and abortions, and denying patients the opportunity to speak to medical staff (or not having medical staff at all).
NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri will continue holding CPCs accountable, while also working in the state legislature to defeat a number of proposed bills that attempt to increase the funding CPCs receive. Rep. Deb Lavender (D-Kirkwood), for example, introduced HB 236 to stop the misuse of federal food assistance dollars and help ensure hungry kids across Missouri have the resources they need to live happy and healthy childhoods. Even though Missouri suffers the fastest-growing rates of childhood hunger, a ThinkProgress investigation found that millions of dollars intended to help needy families are instead being diverted to anti-choice groups. We will continue supporting Rep. Lavender’s bill, and other proactive bills like it, to stop these ideological groups from misusing taxpayer funds that are intended to help women and families in need of basic services.
And we need your help to be able to make this change. Do not let the march or direct action you took part in on Saturday be your last. Call your state legislator, become a clinic escort, and support the work of organizations who are trying to stop the onslaught of anti-choice legislation. Seven in ten Americans say that they believe abortion access should remain legal. And it is time that elected officials listen to their constituents’ needs.