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Groups protest Planned Parenthood’s federal funding

Abortion opponents, from left, Thomas Upshur, of Island

Abortion opponents, from left, Thomas Upshur, of Island Park, Mike Drozdick, of Oceanside, and John Babyak, of Williston Park, demonstrate Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, outside the Hempstead Health Center. Credit: Steve Pfost

Signs held high, demonstrators who want to see Planned Parenthood lose its federal funding gathered outside the organization’s clinics across the country Saturday, including three on Long Island.

Small groups of demonstrators gathered outside clinics in Hempstead, Smithtown and Patchogue for about an hour and a half. In Hempstead, 10 people stood on the sidewalk with signs condemning the organization for its abortion services. Some prayed, as Planned Parenthood volunteers stood by, ready to escort patients.

The protests were part of a national campaign by #ProtestPP, a coalition of abortion opponents aiming to halt Planned Parenthood’s federal support.

However, in some cities, counter-protests dwarfed abortion foes’ demonstrations.

Thousands of Planned Parenthood supporters, many wearing the pointy-eared pink hats popularized by last month’s women’s marches, rallied in St. Paul, Minnesota, separated by barricades from an anti-abortion crowd of a couple hundred people. In Detroit, about 300 people turned up outside a Planned Parenthood office, most of them supporting the organization. In St. Louis, about 150 abortion opponents slightly outnumbered a group carrying pink signs that read, “I stand with Planned Parenthood.”

In one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump last month banned U.S. funding to international groups that perform abortions or even provide information about abortions. Vice President Mike Pence strongly opposes abortion, and the newly confirmed health secretary, Tom Price, has supported cutting off taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood has long faced scrutiny for offering abortions, although the procedure constitutes about 3 percent of the services it provided nationally in 2014, according to the organization. The majority of women seek out contraception, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, or other services including cancer screenings, at Planned Parenthood clinics.

The organization receives about $500 million annually through Medicaid and Title X funding, though federal regulations prevent that funding from being used for abortions.

“While everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, they are not entitled to their own facts,” said JoAnn Smith, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County. “The facts are very simple: There is no federal funding for abortions, and defunding Planned Parenthood from Medicaid reimbursements would result in a public health crisis.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says defunding plans would cut roughly $400 million in Medicaid money from the group in the year after enactment and would result in roughly 400,000 women losing access to care. Republicans would redirect the funding to community health centers, but Planned Parenthood supporters say women denied Medicaid services from Planned Parenthood may not be able to find replacement care.

But Patchogue organizer Barbara Renna, 66, said she believes Planned Parenthood doesn’t have women’s best interests in mind. She demonstrated Saturday with about 10 other abortion opponents and said she would rather see federal funds go to other organizations.

Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, which oversees the organization’s locations in Suffolk County, did not return a call seeking comment.

With AP

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