Some people go to brunch on Saturdays. Amber Squires spends her day outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Tempe, helping women get inside the building safely.
The Tempe location is known for performing abortions on Saturdays, so women entering the clinic are taunted and heckled by protesters waving signs with giant, blown-up photos of bloody doll parts — an intimidating experience that often leaves them feeling shaken.
“They’re usually going to encounter men with a microphone and speaker at each end of the shopping complex,” Squires explained. “They choose to shout degrading, insulting things at patients and their companions, and they attempt to reach patients already inside by raising their voices.”
“You can hear these guys far up the street, and they’re wildly inappropriate.”
This weekend should be even worse: Pro-life activists around the country are planning a national “Defund PP” rally. Their goal is to build public support for the movement to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, which they describe as “the nation’s largest abortion chain.”
Locally, protests will take place at Planned Parenthood’s Tempe and Mesa locations today and at the Glendale location on the morning of Sunday, February 12.
It’s unclear how many people will attend, but similar protests have gathered crowds of 300 or so in the past.
In response, reproductive rights activists have planned counterprotests in Tempe and Glendale. Hundreds of people have responded on Facebook and said they’re planning to attend — not always an accurate measure, to be sure, but a good indication that there should be a decent-size crowd at both clinics.
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There’s an ongoing debate over whether counterprotests are actually productive: Some clinic escorts say they can make the experience even more overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for patients. Others argue that pro-lifers just want attention, and it would be a mistake to give it to them.
But the organizers of both the Tempe and Glendale rallies say they have permission from clinic staff to be there, and that the events planned for this weekend will be counterprotests in name only.
They’re asking attendees not to engage with the protesters. Instead, the focus will be on helping to safely escort Planned Parenthood patients and employees to the building.
“At the end of the day, it’s a health center, and the patients’ safety and well-being are the most important,” Squires, who planned the Tempe event, says. “They don’t need the added stress of chaotic counterprotesting and the confusion of two opposing groups outside their clinic.”