With the possibility of a government shutdown looming in the very near future, supporters of Planned Parenthood in Arizona will gather in at least a dozen locations throughout the state Tuesday afternoon as part of a national movement called Pink Out Day.
“We’re going to demonstrate just how many people across the country are willing to stand up and fight for women’s health and rights [while also showing] anti-abortion extremists and politicians that we... will not let them use fraud and deception to shut down the health centers so many women rely on for care,” the event's website states.
With more than 300 events planned in the country, Arizona's largest rally will be in Tucson at the Margaret Sanger Health Center. (Hundreds of others are expected to gather at Planned Parenthood centers or on university campuses in the state, and counter-protesters organizing "#BlackOut the #PinkOut" rallies are likely to be there as well.)
In addition to rallies, a lot of the events will feature free STI testing, voter registration opportunities, and a variety of speakers.
Jodi Liggett, vice president of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona, tells New Times that with the Republicans in Congress threatening to shut down the federal government if Planned Parenthood's federal funding continues, there has been “an outpouring of support” for the organization – particularly among millennials.
“We get these calls all the time from students [and] they are just bewildered: 'Why do they want to shut down the government,' they ask me, 'it seems so out of proportion?' I don't have a good response for that,” she says. “It is a deeply destructive and futile gesture.”
Planned Parenthood has been at the center of a heated debate since the non-profit Center for Medical Progress began releasing undercover videos purportedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue sales earlier this summer.
Congress and individual states — Arizona included — have launched dozens of official investigations into the issue, though as Liggett points out, no one has found any evidence of Planned Parenthood engaging in illegal activity.
Still, the attacks continue, she explains "because this is really just a cynical effort on the part of a handful of folks to who want to activate the socially conservative base of the Republican party during an election year. This isn't even really about whether Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue – and we don't – and I would argue that this isn't even about abortion. It's about elections and playing on people's emotions in advance of an election.”
She explains that tomorrow's event is part of ongoing response to this tactic, as well as an opportunity to point out the ways the organization provides critical health services to more than 90,000 women and men in Arizona every year. (Nationally it serves about 2.7 million men and women.)
“We're really proud of the healthcare we provide. Abortion is certainly part of it – and we're not ashamed of that— [but] it's only a small part of what we do.”
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She sighs and adds that “if you don't like abortion – and nobody likes abortion – but if you want to reduce the number of abortions and the need for abortions, you should be investing in Planned Parenthood, not in cutting off its funding.”
National Pink Out Day events will begin Tuesday morning at the Margaret Sanger Health Center and last all day. The main rally with speakers will begin at 3 p.m.