More than 62,000 pro-life supporters turned out in U.S. cities nationwide Saturday for a massive show of opposition against Planned Parenthood, an event billed as the largest simultaneous protest ever aimed at the embattled abortion and health care provider.
#ProtestPP, the coalition of pro-life groups sponsoring the event, said Sunday that there were at least 342 rallies, a number that could grow to 350 after the final tally.
“With 254 sites reporting, our total attendance is at 62,304,” said Eric J. Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, one of the coalition partners.
“The protest was an outstanding success, with pro-lifers coming out in droves to expose Planned Parenthood’s horrific practice of harvesting and selling aborted baby body parts,” Mr. Scheidler said in an email.
“For the first time, defunding Planned Parenthood is beginning to look like an achievable goal,” he said.
The hashtag #ProtestPP was also the top U.S. trender on Twitter for most of Saturday after the morning protests began.
SEE ALSO: Anti-abortion supporters protest outside Planned Parenthoods nationwide
The impetus: A series of undercover videos released since July 14 by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress, which exposed Planned Parenthood’s involvement in procuring fetal tissue and organs from abortions used for medical research.
“I see the tide changing in our country,” Jeff Medders, pastor of the Redeemer Church in Houston, told ABC 13. “For me it was really out of sight, out of mind, and then I saw these videos and thought, ‘I can’t be the same anymore.’ “
The videos include footage of Planned Parenthood officials haggling over the price of fetal organs such as hearts and brains, although the organization has insisted that it only charges for reimbursement costs related to transportation and storage, which is legal under federal law.
The rallies, held mostly outside Planned Parenthood affiliates, drew anywhere from a few dozen to more than 1,000 participants. Speakers included evangelical pastors, Catholic priests and pro-life advocates, according to posts on social media and local news reports.
“Thousands rally on the streets of Falls Church, VA today to defend life & #DefundPP. We must #StoPP the funding now!” Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson tweeted.
In the District of Columbia, there is no Planned Parenthood clinic, so protesters gathered outside the proposed site of an affiliate in Northeast.
Several rallies attracted counter-protests from Planned Parenthood advocates, many wearing bright pink T-shirts and holding signs with messages such as, “I Stand With Planned Parenthood.”
Anti-Planned Parenthood protesters displayed bright pink banners that said, “Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.”
Planned Parenthood Vice President Eric Ferrero released a statement accusing protesters of attempting to block access to “basic reproductive health care.”
“These rallies are meant to intimidate and harass our patients, who rely on our nonprofit health centers for basic, preventive health care,” Mr. Ferrero said. “The people behind these protests have a clear political agenda: They want to ban abortion, and block women and men from accessing basic reproductive health care.”
In Nashville, organizers passed out yellow balloons with the word “Life.” In Marietta, Georgia, speakers included pro-life advocate Alveda C. King, niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.