Anti-Planned Parenthood Rally Overshadowed by Counterprotest in S.F.

Eva Muntean, right, protests in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic in San Francisco as part of a nationwide effort to get the federal government to cut off funding to the program. Muntean says she doesn't want her tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood. (April Dembosky/KQED)

Protesters opposed to -- and in support of -- abortion clashed outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in San Francisco on Saturday, arguing over whether taxpayer money should go to a women’s health organization that provides abortion.

“We think that the other side has some valid concerns about women's health,” said Terrisa Bukovinac, president of Pro-Life Future of San Francisco. “However, we are absolutely not OK with federal funds going to an organization that profits from human demise.”

The rally was one of 200 organized across the country -- about 30 of them in California -- by anti-abortion activists, urging Congress to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood. In several locations, including Denver and St. Paul, Minnesota, demonstrators were outnumbered by counterprotesters.

In California, Planned Parenthood clinics receive $260 million per year in federal funds, though that money is restricted to providing birth control counseling, STD testing and cervical cancer screening -- not abortion.

Outside the San Francisco clinic on Valencia Street, about 40 anti-abortion protesters prayed and sang "Ave Maria," while more than 200 counterprotesters gathered on the other side of the sidewalk, shouting slogans like, “Pro-life, that’s a lie! You don’t care if women die!”

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Women on both sides wore T-shirts that said, "This is what a feminist looks like," including Bukovinac. She said even though the back and forth got tense at times, she welcomed it.

“Rarely do we see a significant counterprotest. It's almost always just us talking to ourselves, which is kind of pointless because we want to be having this national discussion,” she said. “It's exciting to see people coming out who are also passionate about what they believe in, just like we are.”

A few Planned Parenthood supporters walked down the sidewalk waving $20 bills at the protesters, then went into the clinic to make a donation.

“This Planned Parenthood was definitely there for me as a young woman and I believe it should be there for all women anywhere,” said pro-abortion rights protester Marian Doub. “I watch the anti-choice people out here periodically and don't feel like we've done enough to counter their movement. We need to step it up.”

Police were careful to keep protesters on either side of the sidewalk away from each other. But one anti-abortion demonstrator, Eva Muntean, broke away at the request of two young women on the pro-abortion rights side. They talked for 20 minutes, sharing their views and personal stories, debating policy and statistics. In the end, no minds were changed, no opinions swayed. But they thanked each other for the civil conversation.

“I totally respect their right to be here,” Muntean said. “I wouldn't want it any other way.”

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