Good Friday draws protests at clinic

Hundreds of abortion activists rallied in front of St. Paul’s Planned Parenthood.

Justin Horwath

Orange traffic cones and police officers separated pro-choice and anti-abortion protesters outside Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota on Ford Parkway Friday, representing a divide between two sides that have long typified the abortion debate.

The clinic usually draws hundreds of protestors every Good Friday, CEO Sarah Stoesz said – an occurrence that doesn’t please her.

“I don’t appreciate their attempts to shame the women,” she said of anti-abortion protesters, adding that she accepts their first amendment right to free speech.

While anti-abortion activists marched, chanted, prayed and sang in front of the clinic for most of the day, employees wearing vests stood in front of the doors as escorts, waiting to accompany any patient who might come in. The pro-choice faction attended to support the clinic and its patients.

Caitlin LaFlash, president of the University Pro-Choice Coalition, said attending the rally was a show of support for women going in for an appointment.

“I do feel like we had a successful counter peaceful protest,” the art history junior said. “Any woman going into that clinic Ö would have felt like she had people who respected her and supported her.”

University student Leona Jovanovich attended the rally representing the anti-abortion side of the debate. The pre-nursing sophomore just formed the only undergraduate student group with an anti-abortion mission, Students for Human Life.

“They call it a prayer service,” she said. “The point to having it on Good Friday is to bring people together to bring an end to abortion.”

At 1 p.m., Planned Parenthood organizers said, about 150 people came in support for the clinic. Organizers on the anti-abortion side estimated over 1,000 people would be coming and going throughout the day.

“In terms of just going there and have a lot of people come to pray and be a witness I think that it was successful,” Jovanovich said.

Pro-life Action Ministries Director Brian Gibson said they organized the “vigil” for prayer.

“Nothing more, nothing less,” he said.

Stoesz said there were about 15 appointments scheduled for the day, as the clinic usually tries to keep them to a minimum every Good Friday.

She said the vast majority of patients who visit are in their twenties, though many don’t come for the procedure.

“We do see some college students,” she said. “But because college students tend to be more affluent we see a disproportionate share of women of a lower income.”

The Minnesota Department of Health reported that out of 13,362 women who had induced abortions in Minnesota in 2005, 4,569 of them were between ages 20-24 (the largest of any age group), while 1,343 were either 18 or 19 years old.

The report also stated 4,763 Hennepin County residents had abortions that year, the most of any county. The number of abortions in Minnesota has been on a steady decline since 2001, when 14,833 induced abortions were reported.