- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 23, 2015

DENVER — Stephanie McKee says she has opposed abortion for years, but Saturday marked the first time she had ever attended a pro-life rally. Why now?

It was the hidden camera videos, she said. “They just kept getting worse and worse,” said Ms. McKee as she stood outside the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, balancing an enormous anti-abortion sign with one hand and a cupcake given to her by a group of children in the other.

“After I saw those videos, I thought, ‘I have to do something,’” said Ms. McKee. “I felt like I can’t be so complacent and just sit at home and let other people do this.”

She wasn’t the only one. The seven undercover videos released since July 14 by the Center for Medical Progress have brought new life to the pro-life movement, energizing longtime activists and spurring into action newcomers shocked by Planned Parenthood’s involvement in procuring fetal tissue from abortions.

#ProtestPP, the pro-life coalition that organized the massive national demonstration, tallied at least 342 simultaneous rallies Saturday, most of those outside Planned Parenthood affiliates.

In Washington, D.C., there is no Planned Parenthood clinic, so protesters gathered outside the proposed site of an affiliate in Northeast. Meanwhile, several hundred more gathered for two blocks around a Planned Parenthood facility in Falls Church, a Northern Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital. Among them was 2016 Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson, who tweeted from the event.

SEE ALSO: Thousands rally against Planned Parenthood in massive national protest

With 254 events reporting, the total attendance was 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,” said Mr. Scheidler in an email.

“For the first time, defunding Planned Parenthood is beginning to look like an achievable goal,” he said.

Planned Parenthood swung back with its own counter-rallies at some of the locations, passing out bright pink T-shirts with the message, “I Stand With Planned Parenthood,” while foes displayed banners in the same shade of pink that said, “Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.”

Former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis defended the embattled organization in a Facebook post, saying that, “Making Planned Parenthood the ‘bogeyman’ to score political points hurts real women.”

Protests drew anywhere from a few dozen to thousands. Those in conservative red states tended to attract healthy crowds, but one of the largest events took place in the liberal stronghold of St. Paul, Minnesota, where thousands protested outside a Planned Parenthood clinic, according to WCCO-TV in Minneapolis.

Jeff Medders, pastor of the Redeemer Church in Tomball, Texas, was one of hundreds who lined the busy Gulf Highway in Houston to protest Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

“After seeing the videos from the Center for Medical Progress as they exposed the barbaric nature of Planned Parenthood — the chopping up of human children and selling them — we believed it was pivotal as Christians for us to come down here and protest and say, ‘We are not for this,’” Mr. Medders told ABC13 in Houston.

“I see the tide changing in our country,” he said. “For me, it was really out of sight, out of mind, and then I saw these videos, and I said, ‘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.

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.”

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Michael Norton called “absolutely false” the argument that women will be left without health care if Planned Parenthood folds.

He noted that community health clinics that do not provide abortions are on the rise while the number of Planned Parenthood patient visits continues to decline and abortion, accordingly, becomes a larger share of Planned Parenthood’s business.

“Less than 2 percent of American women ever set foot inside a Planned Parenthood abortion mill,” said Mr. Norton at the Denver rally. “Doing away with Planned Parenthood is not going to have any impact whatsoever on women’s health in this country.”

More than 100 hands shot up at the Denver protest after a speaker asked how many were attending a pro-life rally for the first time. The same was true at the St. Paul gathering, according to John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis.

“We were asked to raise our hands if this was the first ever pro-life demonstration we had attended. The number was huge,” Mr. Piper said on his blog DesiringGod.org. “So these are not just the old die-hards. This is a new wave.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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