Protesters, counter-protesters rally outside Planned Parenthood in Boston for national day of action

Dozens of anti-abortion protesters lined Commonwealth Avenue Saturday morning calling on President Donald J. Trump and Congress to defund Planned Parenthood. The protest, organized by 40 Days for Life Boston and Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, was part of a national day of action held at 225 Planned Parenthood clinics across 45 states.

Next to them, dozens of pro-abortion protesters, organized by the Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump (C.O.M.B.A.T.), demonstrated against their counterparts. The Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts publicly asked C.O.M.B.A.T. in its Facebook event multiple times to move the counter-protest away from outside the doors of their health center. 

“While it is exciting to see so many supporters eager to take action, we strongly discourage these types of counter-protests directly outside of our health centers,” Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts wrote. “Any form of protest outside of our health centers, even in support of our mission, is not beneficial to our patients. Our patients are simply trying to access their health care so having demonstrators of any kind outside the health center can be intimidating for them.”

Still, C.O.M.B.A.T. members decided to proceed with the protest. There were some tense moments, but the demonstrations were peaceful and both sides expressed that the other side had the right to voice their opinions, even if they strongly disagreed with them.

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Anti-abortion protesters braced freezing flurries in Boston on Saturday morning to participate in a national day of action calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Beside them, pro-abortion demonstrators rallied against them, chanting, “racist, sexist, anti-gay, right-wing bigots go away!”

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Despite the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts publicly asking multiple times that people not counter-protest outside their health center, pro-abortion demonstrators, organized by the Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump (C.O.M.B.A.T.), lined the sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue.

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Kristen Martin, 25, a first-year Boston University graduate student studying education, chose to counter-protest even though Planned Parenthood advised against it. “I respect Planned Parenthood incredibly—I’m a patient myself,” Martin said. “But I don’t think that letting the bigots go out here unopposed is an effective strategy to save abortion.”

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Doug, a 68-year-old Lawrence, Massachusetts, resident who declined to give his last name, said defunding Planned Parenthood was the first step on the road to overturning Roe v. Wade—the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. “We’re standing up for human rights,” he said. “The right to life and the wasted taxpayer dollars on Planned Parenthood.”

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Right, a Boston police officer acts as a barricade separating the pro-abortion and anti-abortion protesters. Left, a man clutches a rosary while he prays aloud next to a box filled with signs calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

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A Boston police officer and two volunteer clinic escorts guard the entrance of the Planned Parenthood to ensure that protesters do not cross the police barricade and that patients are able to safely enter the clinic.

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Akuna Eneh, 34, a 2005 Northeastern alumna, was among the pro-abortion protesters. “I’m hoping that people become more confident about defending abortion,” said Eneh, who works as a librarian at the Dudley branch of the Boston Public Library. “I think that we’ve been told it’s a moral thing—it’s kind of a bad choice to make, sometimes you have to make it—and I think it’s just a regular medical procedure and I think I want that idea to grow.”

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Anti-abortion protesters place several signs—some depicting fetuses—in the snow on Commonwealth Avenue outside the Planned Parenthood health center.

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Pro-abortion protesters moved away from the crowd to unfurl a nearly six-foot banner reading, “Abortion on demand and without apology.”

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Left, Micah Jasny, 25, a stewardship manager for the Esplanade Association in Boston, says the pro-abortion protesters have the right to demonstrate, just as the anti-abortion protesters do. “When people look at this Planned Parenthood, I want them to see…not just pro-life protesters standing outside it,” Jasny said.

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