Planned Parenthood protest, counter-protest reach campus

Several student organizations collaborated to make the week of Oct. 25 Stand with Planned Parenthood Week. The events were largely organized in response to a Planned Parenthood Project protest held by Students for Life on Oct. 20.

Voices for Planned Parenthood—or VOX—spearheaded the week of events with College Democrats, Women’s Action Coalition, Students Against Social Injustice and Alpha Delta Epsilon sorority.

“VOX is just at the helm of this because of our direct connection to Planned Parenthood,” VOX president junior Stephanie Gerspacher said. “We have direct contacts in Planned Parenthood—we’re the people who get the materials here … and I’ve also interned [there].”

Events included tabling in the MacVittie College Union and a walk and rally during all-college hour on Wednesday Oct. 28.

Both Gerspacher and ADE president senior Meghan Barrett expressed that they perceived the Oct. 20 Students for Life protest as a source of misinformation.

“Obviously, the Students for Life group and the Planned Parenthood Project have every right to be here, but the main point of this is to fight misinformation with accurate information,” Gerspacher said.

Barrett was instrumental in the planning of Stand with Planned Parenthood week and the maintenance of its Facebook event page.

“This particular week is very much in response to the lies that were distributed and wanting to educate the public against those lies so they have the facts to arm themselves when those kinds of conversations come up again,” Barrett said. “It was also to show solidarity with the women who were very upset by what was happening.”

According to Students for Life president junior Kasey Ramsey, however, the purpose of the Oct. 20 Planned Parenthood Project protest was to “help women understand … some things that women might not have known about Planned Parenthood.”

Students for Life was founded at Geneseo this semester and the Planned Parenthood Project protest was the group’s first official event.

“It definitely got a lot of heat,” Ramsey said. “I was excited because it got so much heat, but we’re here more than anything for dialoguing. We understand that compared to the rest of the college, we are a minority group, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to divide each other up.”

Ramsey placed emphasis on the existence of dozens of women’s health clinics not affiliated with Planned Parenthood within the vicinity of Geneseo. “Our main purpose and our main thought is we want women to have the best option out there and be aware of where they can go,” she said.

Students for Life set up 897 crosses on the College Green on Oct. 20, which were intended to represent the number of abortions performed per day. “A lot of people, when they saw the crosses, they assumed, ‘Oh, this is a religious thing,’” Ramsey said. “Our purpose is the pro-life movement; it’s not about religion. The fact of the matter is that it is supposed to mark a grave of a child who wasn’t born. It’s not supposed to be some happy, fluffy thing, but something that really brings it into focus.”

WAC president junior Maya Lucyshyn set up flags where the crosses had been before the rally on Wednesday Oct. 28 to illustrate Planned Parenthood statistics. According to Planned Parenthood’s 2013-14 annual report, 3 percent of its overall services provided are abortions. Meanwhile, the Planned Parenthood Project’s website states that 94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services in 2013 were abortion services.

“[There] are more relevant statistics, I think, than either the 3 or the 94 percent. And I think that what this is about is getting those actual facts out there so people aren’t confused,” Barrett said. “So people aren’t sitting there saying, ‘Well, is it 3 percent or is it 94 percent?’ There’s really a host of numbers you can look at.”

Barrett added, “You could say that all statistics are—in their own unique way—deliberately misleading.”

Though members of Students for Life have discussed holding another event in response to Stand with Planned Parenthood Week, Ramsey said they “definitely don’t want this to become a back and forth.”

Both Ramsey and Gerspacher expressed interest in holding a discussion between VOX and Students for Life. “I wouldn’t call it a debate; I would call it more a forum or a panel,” Gerspacher said.

“I don’t think anyone in VOX wants direct attacks on Students for Life and we don’t want direct attacks directed back at us,” she added. “I think that it’s important that we both express our points of view, but I don’t think arguing about it is very productive.”