In the lead-up to Congress’ vote to defund the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Georgetown College Democrats organized a rally advocating for the organization in Red Square on Tuesday, which was met with counterprotestors in support of defunding the nonprofit.
The rally coincided with National Pink Out Day, in which there were national demonstrations and two local rallies in support of the organization outside of the Capitol Building and the Planned Parenthood headquarters.
Planned Parenthood, which has provided reproductive health services since the early 20th century, received national media attention in July when undercover videos were released showing the nonprofit’s officials discussing the use of aborted fetus tissue in medical research. Since then, hundreds of politicians, mainly Republicans, have called for the defunding of the organization.
On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a spending bill that retained funds for Planned Parenthood, averting a government shutdown.
At the rally in Red Square, the College Democrats organized a photo campaign in which students took pictures holding signs showing support for Planned Parenthood. The pictures were subsequently posted on social media.
Vice Chair of the College Democrats Tracey Zhang (SFS ’17) said that the goal of the rally was to demonstrate the importance of Planned Parenthood to a range of demographics.
“There’s been a lot of talk recently in Congress about defunding Planned Parenthood, and we just want to show how integral this organization is to supporting women’s health and to providing services, especially for low-income women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have access,” Zhang said.
Willem Miller (COL ’17), who participated in the rally and the photo campaign, said that he supported Planned Parenthood because of the variety of health care services it provides for women.
“I feel like people get very wrapped up into one service they provide, which is a very important service and one that needs to be provided for health and safety reasons,” Miller said. “Of course, I’m talking about abortion, but even if you never feel like you could get an abortion personally, that’s not all they do. They do so much else for health care in general.
Another participant in the rally, Sarah Madoff (COL ’16), said that supporting Planned Parenthood should have a special relevancy and urgency for Georgetown students, who often do not have access to the services provided by the nonprofit.
“Georgetown, as a Catholic institution, doesn’t always do as much as it can to support reproductive health on campus. … Especially since our health center doesn’t provide a lot of things that Planned Parenthood does, it’s especially important for us to have Planned Parenthood as an option,” Madoff said.
As the College Democrats rally took place, pro-life student group Vita Saxa staged a simultaneous counterdemonstration in Red Square to show its support for defunding Planned Parenthood.
Members of Vita Saxa held signs that read “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “I am the Pro-Life Generation.”
Justine Worden (COL ’17), a member of Vita Saxa, said that the goal of the counter-rally was to remind students of options other than Planned Parenthood that support women’s health. To demonstrate this, Worden held signs that read “I Stand for Comprehensive Care without Planned Parenthood” and “Women need Love, not Planned Parenthood.”
“We got the signs to show that there’s equal support for comprehensive care without Planned Parenthood and without abortion, so that’s why we’re here,” Worden said. “[Comprehensive care is] everything that Planned Parenthood claims they do, without abortion.”
After the rally, several members of the College Democrats attended the general rally at the Planned Parenthood headquarters on 1110 Vermont Ave. NW, where they briefly spoke with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.
Meredith Forsyth (SFS ’19), who organized the trip to the rally at the Planned Parenthood headquarters, said that the College Democrats also set up a marketing initiative to spread awareness about Planned Parenthood.
“Each group would go to a different neighborhood or location in D.C. and do canvassing,” Forsyth said. “We were basically just trying to garner support by getting people to sign up for the Planned Parenthood newsletter and show that they support Planned Parenthood.”
In response to the counter-rally held by Vita Saxa, Forsyth said that while the College Democrats did not agree with its views, both groups had the right to publically express their opinions.
“It’s a free speech space and everyone has the right to be there,” Forsyth said.