Over 1,000 people swarmed the west end of Skyline Park five floors below the offices of Sen. Cory Gardner on Saturday to urge him to oppose Congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
Cars that drove through Arapahoe Street and 17th Avenue and honked in support would rile the large crowd in a wave of hoots and swaying of cleverly direct protest signs. Speakers in the rally included a public health student, a nurse and mom, young people, a congresswoman and other community members who shared the importance of Planned Parenthood in everyday people’s lives. “I have a confession. I’m a state senator and I stand with Planned Parenthood,” said state Senator Rachel Zenzinger.
Nadeen Ibrahim a student at the University of Colorado Denver studying public health, and an organizer in Muslim communities, strongly believes that all people including transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have the right to access contraceptives, sexual education and cancer screening. Ibrahim said, “We have a moral and humanitarian responsibility to our community members to have access to health care services to ensure their desired quality of life. Not the quality of life defined by politicians.”
Each speaker made a point to tell the audience and Sen. Gardner that they were real people who were not paid to show up and voice their opinions. The crowd screaming in unison, “I’m not paid. I’m not paid. We pay you.” This was in direct response to Gardner’s recent comments that the calls he has been receiving at his office have been from paid protesters from out of state.
According to its website, Planned Parenthood’s mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people including comprehensive sex education. Across the nation approximately 650 Planned Parenthood health centers exist to improve the sexual health and well-being of individuals and families.
In 2014 Sen. Gardner changed his position on “Personhood” measures which aim to define a person at time of conception in order to further restrict abortions. He told the Denver Post, “I was not right. I can’t support Personhood now. I can’t support Personhood going forward. To do it again would be a mistake.”
The then incumbent Sen. Mark Udall’s campaign office released a statement, “Coloradans want a Senator who always promotes and protects women’s health, not one who simply pretends to during election years.” About 10 months later Gardner won the election for senator against Udall. Now that he holds a senate seat his constituents have been vocal about demanding that he resist efforts by legislators and the Trump administration to defend Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has 20 clinics across the state and serves 800,000 people each year. Half of those clinics are in rural areas of the state.
Laura Reinsch, political director at One Colorado an LGBTQ policy organization, warned that marginalized populations in Colorado like low-income families, young people, rural residents and transgender individuals will be impacted negatively the most by potential closures.
Rallies have been attracting long-time supporters and new activists who have recently been inspired to act. Liddy Knight-Greulich one of the organizers said she was not a politically active person and that she preferred rescuing dogs. Her activism has recently ignited. She said, “I cannot stand by and watch our rights be eroded away. This is not okay and Cory Gardner is going to hear our voices.”
A report Planned Parenthood released in late December 2015 shows the organization’s reliance on government revenue had increase by 4.8 percent, nearly half of the total $1.2 billion expense it takes to run the organization. If Congress decided to fully defund Planned Parenthood the revenue would be cut in half and potentially half of its 2.5 million patients nationwide would have to find another clinic to receive comprehensive reproductive care.