Don’t counter-protest outside Planned Parenthood – and everything else to know about this weekend’s Denver rallies

The Women’s March on Denver. Jan. 21, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

On Saturday morning, activists opposed to abortion will gather outside Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Stapleton facility and call for the complete de-funding of the women’s health organization. On Saturday afternoon, activists who support abortion rights will gather in Skyline Park and explain why Planned Parenthood matters to them so much.

The distance between the events is at the request of Planned Parenthood. Counter-protesters had offered to create a barrier around the clinic, but PP officials essentially said, thank you, but please don’t.

“We’ve seen, post Women’s March, a huge outpouring of support, which is wonderful, but we would like to guide that enthusiasm and support and that includes asking those folks not to come to our health centers,” said Whitney Phillips, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

“From a patient perspective, you don’t know what all those people are there for, and it’s just more people to get through to get to the clinic. We don’t think getting health care should be like that.”

At the center of both events are the calls by President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress to remove all federal funding from Planned Parenthood. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he’ll defund Planned Parenthood as part of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The organization gets more than $500 million a year from the federal government, about half its funding, to provide contraception, STI screenings and other health care for low-income men and women. Federal money does not and cannot by law go to pay for abortion services, with the exception of Medicaid patients who are victims of rape or face life-threatening pregnancy complications.

The calls to cut funding picked up after an activist posed as a buyer of fetal tissue and recorded video that purported to show Planned Parenthood executives discussing selling tissue. It’s legal to provide tissue for research and be reimbursed for your costs, but it’s not legal to sell tissue for profit. Investigations in multiple states have not found any wrong-doing by Planned Parenthood, but that hasn’t stopped the calls to remove funding.

READ MORE: 50 years ago, Colorado became the first state to liberalize its abortion laws.

The anti-Planned Parenthood rally is part of a national day of protest at abortion clinics around the country. The primary sponsors of #ProtestPP are Citizens for a Pro-Life SocietyCreated Equal and the Pro-Life Action League.

Thomas Uebbing is the Denver organizer for #ProtestPP.

“They like to say they’re only funding the non-abortion side, but they support each other,” he said. “People who are not interested in having a baby on the contraception side are potential candidates for abortion because all contraception has a failure rate.”

One target of the rally is Planned Parenthood. The location is the facility that performs abortions. Uebbing said that site was chosen because “that’s where the killing happens.”

But the other audience for the rally is the president and Republican politicians. Anti-abortion activists don’t want them to get cold feet in the face of opposition or appeals to the other work that Planned Parenthood does.

Uebbing said activists feel this is an important political moment where change could happen.

“There is a very strong possibility (of Planned Parenthood being defunded),” he said. “For all his faults or character flaws or whatever you want to call them, President Trump is a pretty determined man. I think he’s going to give backbone to them, and they’re going to do it.”

Uebbing said the rally will be “based in prayer” and that information will be presented about why Planned Parenthood should be defunded. The rally is not a reaction to the Women’s March per se, but “we certainly want to get our message out there.”

Across town on Saturday afternoon, a group of women will be trying to get out a different message.

“This is an essential need for our community,” said Tiffany Caudill, one of the organizers of the Colorado Stands with Planned Parenthood counter-protest. “Planned Parenthood provides wellness exams, cancer screening, STD tests. They serve the low-income part of our community that needs these services. It’s not just about abortion.

“We feel that we are under attack as women,” she continued. “… They cannot limit our access because they don’t agree with our choices.”

Caudill, who works in health care but describes herself as “a mom first,” has never organized a protest or rally before. She attended the Women’s March on Denver, and like many people after the election, she is a lot more engaged in politics than she was a few months ago.

Information about the Planned Parenthood protest was shared on the Facebook page for the Women’s March, and she had a “gut reaction,” that there needed to be a counter protest to show support.

READ MORE: When abortion was illegal … a Rocky Mountain News expose from 1947.

She proposed the idea in the Facebook group and two other women she’s never met before — Julie Simmons and Liddy Greulich — got in touch to help organize it with her.

“Our original hope was to go to the clinic and be a barrier between the protestors and the patients. We reached out to Planned Parenthood, and they were really grateful but explained that is not useful,” she said.

So they moved it downtown. Skyline Park also happens to be in front of the Denver office of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

There will be speakers and opportunities for women to share their own stories. The counter protest is also a letter-writing campaign to Gardner, a Republican, to ask him to support continued funding for Planned Parenthood. Women can bring letters but not sealed in an envelope — they need to be loose for security screening. There will also be a letter-writing station.

Caudill said organizers have been promised a meeting with members of Gardner’s staff later in the week so they can deliver the letters and make their case.

More than 3,700 people have said they’re going on Facebook, and more than 16,000 said they’re interested. Eubbing said he doesn’t know how many people will show up outside Planned Parenthood, but he hopes it’s a lot.

Where and when:

#ProtestPP
Planned Parenthood – Denver Stapleton Health Center
7155 E. 38th Ave., Denver
9 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday

Colorado Stands with Planned Parenthood
Skyline Park
1125 17th St., Denver
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Correction: This article has been updated with the correct spelling of Thomas Uebbing’s name.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.