GUEST COMMENTARY: Protesters at Planned Parenthood help no one

Sunday, August 10, 2014 | 8:35 p.m. CDT; updated 7:22 a.m. CDT, Monday, August 11, 2014

Recently I heard a plea for more people to consider becoming foster parents. I was struck with the irony of this, having worked as a volunteer patient escort for Planned Parenthood for several years.

Each time I work, I face a group of people on the sidewalk, just behind the “No Trespassing” signs, the ones put up to keep these people from approaching those using the health care services of the clinic.

They spend their time imposing their religious views (almost all carry rosaries, draped like weapons in their hands) and attempting to invade the dignity and privacy of the patients of the clinic.

As an escort, I’ve had my picture taken, as well as photos taken of my license plate. I suppose this is in an attempt to deter or frighten me, not what I think of as Christian worship.

How much better their time and efforts would be if they were truly involved in those services that reach out to children in dire straits and needing homes.

These protestors have told me that Planned Parenthood has stolen my soul. They have also informed me I’ve had an abortion (news to me) and that they can help me and that they pray for me. Their voices are anything but helpful; rather they are more like something one would expect from members of a cult — a singsong, rote delivery.

Sometimes they line up on kneeling pads and practically shout the rosary, again in a singsong delivery.

When patients attempt to leave in their cars, some of the protestors will approach the passenger window, knock on it and attempt to give a sack of literature of dubious quality to whoever will roll down the window.

They also offer items like free lip gloss if a patient will just roll down the window. Of course, as they do this, they obstruct the view the driver has of traffic on Providence Road, a busy and dangerous place to be distracted.

One protestor told me, if anyone was hurt pulling out, she knew the fault would be mine.

They sometimes tell patients there is a proven link between birth control and breast cancer. It is not true, and the only motivation I can think of, is that they are opposed to all birth control.

One of the signs they carry frequently offers "Free Pregnancy Tests." These occur in crisis pregnancy centers that operate without medical regulation and offer no birth control options.

A recent study using volunteers showed a pattern of misleading information — condom use might increase the risk of HIV/AIDS and abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, for example. Personnel in these centers also attempt to convert women to Christianity.

Patients of Planned Parenthood are provided preventive health care, which includes essential screenings for cervical and breast cancer, both killers of women. The care is of high quality and affordable. Planned Parenthood also provides family planning, based on the individual needs of its patients.

I believe in religious freedom and don’t dispute anyone’s right to hold opinions I might not agree with. But I draw the line at interference with the freedom of others to access legal, affordable health care.

These people are not offering prayer and counseling. They are mean-spirited, seemingly angry people who harass those who use Planned Parenthood.

This is not about helping people, it is about restricting women from getting the health care they need and deserve.

Kathleen Cain lives in Columbia.

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Joanne Schrader August 12, 2014 | 1:15 a.m.

As one of the "protesters" outside of Planned Parenthood, once again I would like to address the misinformation presented here about us. The headline reads we help no one. I beg to differ. Just ask the people whom we have helped. And, as for being a foster parent, I was one.

Planned Parenthood discourages their staff, escorts, clients, and vendors from speaking to us. That is too bad. I am open to civil dialogue with anyone and wish they would take the time to get to know us before passing judgment. The invitation is always open; we can even meet for lunch somewhere. There are two sides to every story. Unfortunately, all they hear are the lies about us. The lies are even spoken in court under oath. We are normal everyday people from all walks of life who care about women and their families.

Praying in public is not the same as imposing religious views on others.

I have never known any of us to knock on someone's passenger window. That would be crossing a line.

Has Ms. Cain actually taken any of our literature before determining the quality of its content? Or, is she just pre-judging it?

I do my best not to obstruct anyone's view of traffic. I step back out of the way when I see the driver looking down the street.

Our group is made up of 100s of individuals. We have differing viewpoints on birth control; that is not the issue that unites us. Furthermore, there are methods of birth control to which no one objects such as periodic abstinence and natural family planning.

NARAL'S attempt to discredit pregnancy resource centers rises nowhere near Live Action's expose on Planned Parenthood. Watch the unedited videos for yourself. Clients of PRCs are not complaining about the free assistance.

Planned Parenthood's only breast cancer screening is a simple manual exam of the breast -- something every woman can do herself. They do not perform mammograms.

We do not prevent anyone from going into Planned Parenthood, but we try to educate them on PP's real business model. Nationally, according to their annual report, preventive services declined while their abortion business grew. (They are the largest abortion provider in the US.) Yet, they get 1.5 million of our tax dollars daily to provide health care that women can get elsewhere.

(Report Comment)
KATHY HALLOWS August 12, 2014 | 2:02 a.m.

Dear Kathleen,
There is so much misinformation and half truths to address in this piece.

My first question is one of curiosity, how many children have you reached out to in dire straits or needed a home? I have held four babies who were scheduled for abortion at Columbia Planned Parenthood and thanked by their exuberant mothers. I have helped many many young women who felt they had no choice by listening to them, finding out what they needed,found them a home to stay in,given baby clothes, formula, baby showers, etc. It is about helping women and making sure that they have an authentic choice.

When one has nothing to say, it is easy to attack and name call. So many of your complaints are the same old comments. Please read the Supreme Court decision about the methods of sidewalk counselors. The Supreme Court got it right when they talked about compassionate help from women offering help outside of abortion clinics and struck down bubble zones.

As far at the driveway goes, Planned Parenthood has painted a large white square far inside the parking lot. They tell the clients to stop there so as not to be close to the sidewalk by the driveway where information can be received. It is amazing how many of them listen to this foolish direction and gun it out the driveway without looking into busy traffic. THAT is a traffic hazard and yes, if someone gets hit because they followed the escorts' direction, it would be the fault of the escort who gave that information. One just cannot see well enough behind the "white box" to merge into traffic safely. But it is all about "choice". And the choice is not to take any information that differs from Planned Parenthood--no matter how dangerous the solution. Amazing, simply amazing. This "choice" has even taken away information from people who accepted it freely before they entered the clinic. How do I know this? Because more than once, I have been asked for the information again because "they took it from me."

As far as these comments made to you, I am not buying it. These sound like some posted on NOW or planned parenthood sites. How cliché. PP does not allow you to talk to the people on the sidewalk, so how do you have these conversations? The sidewalk counselors are trained how to interact with people and disparaging remarks are NOT in the training.

The people on the sidewalk are obviously making a difference in Columbia. Their prayers are being heard and answered. There have been no abortions in Columbia for over two years after the State took them off the list of surgical ambulatory centers when they could not find a doctor in Columbia to cooperate with the evil of abortion. Seven abortionists quitting in three years prior to this two years of no abortions truly is something that only God could do. That was God's victory.

Interesting your take on the Rosary being a "weapon". That is exactly what Padre Pio calls it!

See you on the sidewalk, Kathleen!

(Report Comment)
Joanne Schrader August 12, 2014 | 11:07 a.m.

Among the letters that complain about us on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, I have noticed a common theme. Since the authors cannot really defend the direct and deliberate destruction of members of our own species before they are born, they go after the people who object to abortion. Our message is that abortion is harmful to women and children; our method of conveying this message is prayer and community outreach. So in order to distract the public from the message, they stereotype and attack the messenger.

The rosary is a meditation on the life of Christ beginning with Mary's consent to the Incarnation (the conception of Jesus in her womb). It is instrument of love. Why should that offend you?

As far as the abortion breast cancer link, this article was recently published: Scientific Review of 72 Epidemiological Studies Shows Abortion-Breast Cancer Link is Real

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger August 12, 2014 | 11:22 a.m.

A number of these problems would be easily resolved by moving the prayerful protesters to the other side of Providence.

(Report Comment)
KATHY HALLOWS August 12, 2014 | 9:36 p.m.

Hank, I wanted to ask you a question. You seem like a very kind and thoughtful man. But why should people who are peaceful and prayerful and offering assistance be "moved" to the other side of Providence? Who would orchestrate this "move"? This would be in direct violation of the First Amendment. The public sidewalk is the forum for all free speech. And to think out loud, how would the many many babies have been saved if the sidewalk counselor was "moved" across the street? It is imperative to be close and able to speak to the moms who feel they have no choice. Hank, I don't think you understand the seriousness of what is happening up in Columbia in front of Planned Parenthood! Lives are being saved and lives are being changed because of this peaceful prayer presence that incorporates sidewalk advocacy. Come pray with us and you will see! See you on the sidewalk!

(Report Comment)
Joanne Schrader August 13, 2014 | 1:21 a.m.

Hank, The Supreme Court wisely struck down buffer zones in a 9 - 0 decision. The problem would also be resolved if Planned Parenthood softened their position towards us. Honestly, we have done nothing wrong and mean no harm to anyone.

(Report Comment)

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