Katie Sims / Sun Staff Photographer

Ithacans protest to defund Planned Parenthood in February.

February 12, 2017

Clashing Protests Over Planned Parenthood Erupt in Ithaca

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As the debate over Planned Parenthood funding rages on the national stage, Ithaca was host to protests both for and against giving federal funds to the organization Saturday.

Nearly 20 local students and residents participated in a peaceful protest in support of defunding Planned Parenthood early Saturday morning. The protest, which took place across the street from Planned Parenthood, was one of many happening across the country and was aimed at taking taxpayers dollars away from the organization.

One group of attendees, the Students for Life Club at Ithaca College, spoke about their reasons for coming out to support the cause.

“We often talk about choice but for a woman, you hear a lot of stories about women getting pressured into [an abortion]. Often it’s not even what the woman wants but she feels like it’s her only option,” said President of the organization Melody Zimmerman.

She also added that she is trying to work with Ithaca College to make it the campus more friendly toward new mothers.

“I believe in equal rights for everyone, and I believe that Planned Parenthood isn’t about helping women,” Zimmerman said. “I want to help redirect funds to places that can really help women.”

Henry Smith, vice president of the Students for Life club at IC, agreed with Zimmerman, adding that he believes abortions are a violation of equal rights.

“I view all human beings as perfectly equal, from the time that they are very old to the time they first become what we would call human. That’s why I’m here,” Smith said. “We can’t choose that some human beings live and some don’t.”

Ray Zimmerman, senior research associate at the Dyson school, questioned the true purpose of Planned Parenthood.

“I think there is a lot of deception in what they actually do. They really are not primarily about health care. They are about abortion,” he said.

Esther Zimmerman, Ray Zimmerman’s wife, reflected on her youth in Argentina and explained why she is pro-life.

“My biological mother wanted to take my life,” she said. “I really don’t know exactly who saved my life, but if that person didn’t speak for me, I wouldn’t be here today. We really need to speak for the ones that can’t defend themselves.”

At the same time, a protest to defend Planned Parenthood took place in DeWitt Park. Protest organizer Jennifer Forte said that when she heard of the anti-Planned Parenthood protests happening all over the state and country she thought that Ithaca should have a counter protest “because of the kind of community we are.”

“I feel grateful to live in a community where it’s easy to rally people together for a cause,” Forte said.

Lining the sidewalk, over fifty supporters held signs reading “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” and “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights,” while chanting “Ho-ho, hey-hey, Planned Parenthood’s here to stay.”

The protest attracted members from all over the Ithaca community including students from both Ithaca College and Cornell.

Carly Siege ’19 protested not only for herself, but for all the other women who wanted to be able to focus on their work and studies.

“The ability to continue my education is thanks to reproductive healthcare,” Siege said.

Ithaca resident Jai Hari Meyerhoff, member of the band Answer the Muse, gave 60 percent of the proceeds from her band’s download card sales to Planned Parenthood.

Many of the protesters had used Planned Parenthood in the past, including Ithaca resident Becca Harber who has used it as her primary health care provider for the past 30 years. Harber was protesting to “affirm the importance of Planned Parenthood.”

“Abortion is such a tiny amount of what Planned Parenthood does,” Harber said. “I’m somebody who had an abortion many years ago, and if there wasn’t a Planned Parenthood, and abortion hadn’t become legal, things could have gone very differently.”

Harber felt that defunding Planned Parenthood would take away irreplaceable services, like community education, gynecological exams for cancer and STD testing.

“There’s nobody who could replace Planned Parenthood and anybody who wants to take funds away from Planned Parenthood, whether they realize it or not, they basically want to take away healthcare for millions,” Harber said. “Planned Parenthood is like one of the top healthcare providers and it is a total nonprofit. Nobody’s making money off of Planned Parenthood. It’s for the communities, all kinds of communities.”