A community at odds


: Individuals counter anti-Planned Parenthood protesters with messages of support at the same location individuals protested against the organization, Saturday, Oct. 10.

Shane Michard | Evergreen reporter

The protest against Planned Parenthood (PP), which took place on Saturday, Oct. 10, attracted a counter-rally and continued a local conversation about the funding of women’s reproductive health services.

With the help of local churches and family groups, Samuel Paul, a recent graduate of New St. Andrew’s College in Moscow, organized the initial protest in Pullman.

Equally-divided slurries of disdain and support greeted the group of about 460 anti-PP citizens from Moscow and Pullman, situated at the corner of Bishop Boulevard and state Route 270, Paul said.

He said while no subsequent protests are being planned, the national uproar regarding PP’s practices is the biggest pro-life resurgence since the Supreme Court decision made in 1973 after Roe v. Wade.

“It’s a really, really sticky issue,” Paul said. “I am very much concerned about the rights of women, but I am also concerned about the rights of unborn women.”

A lack of understanding on the issue has created disconnect between people and the goal of the anti-PP movement, he said.

“I hope congressmen actually do their jobs and represent their constituents,” Paul said.

The only just course of action he sees based on publicly released videos is the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood, he said.

Tyler Walker, senior computer science major at WSU, organized the rally in support of PP.

When he attended a rally on Aug. 22 to support PP in the midst of an anti-PP protest, only 15 or 20 people showed up with him, he said.

Walker said the Sept. 4 arson of Pullman’s PP clinic helped galvanize support among residents, even if the motive behind the attack was questionable.

“Spreading misinformation probably influenced the arson,” Walker said. “They attacked a place that doesn’t even perform abortions.”

The goal of the counter-rally was to show Pullman residents and PP that an equally-passionate group of people wants it known they are supportive of women’s reproductive rights, he said.

During the protest on Saturday, a group of anti-PP protesters moved across the street to stand among the pro-PP group. Concerns that this violated any parameters of the protest were dispelled by Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant, who said there were no official, prior arrangements of this kind about the protest.

Neither group was interrupted by authorities during the demonstration, which lasted about two hours.

The group was exercising their constitutional right to free speech and didn’t require police intervention, Tennant said. A march down the street or a roadblock would have been a different story, he said.

Walker said the anti-PP group seemed to push faith-based arguments and tenacious discourse, while Paul said the pro-PP group was un-engaging and quiet.

“Up until we see unruly or unsafe behavior, they can just do it,” Tennant said.

The Pullman PP displaced by the Sept. 4 arson opened a temporary office on North Grand Avenue. Services it provided before, such as STD/STI testing and contraceptives, are available.

The original location on Bishop Boulevard is under reconstruction. PP spokespersons anticipate being back in their original location by the beginning of 2016.