Sara Seymour

Approximately 100 activists swarmed the corner of Chapel and College streets Tuesday, gathering in support of Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive and maternal health services. Along the periphery of the crowd, supporters and opponents of Planned Parenthood engaged in heated debate about defunding the organization.

Rallies in support of Planned Parenthood broke out across the country following the recent emergence of a bill allowing states to defund the organization. The bill came to the fore after the release of controversial videos alleging that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue. For about a week, activists across the country have been rallying to oppose efforts to cut the organization’s federal funding. Mayor Toni Harp stood with the CEO and President of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England Judy Tabar in support of the pro-choice activists.

While many of the Planned Parenthood supporters were students, most of the pro-life activists standing on the outskirts of the crowd were unaffiliated with student groups.

“We’re excited that so many people are here to stand with Planned Parenthood and the patients we serve,” PPSNE Director of Public Policy and Advocacy Gretchen Raffa said.

Last week on the Senate floor, Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 spoke in opposition to the Republican Party’s efforts to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and dismantle Planned Parenthood’s reproductive care services across the nation. At the rally, Tabar expressed appreciation for Blumenthal’s support.

Harp echoed Tabar and Blumenthal, asserting that defunding Planned Parenthood would eliminate primary care for many young women.

Yale students rallying Tuesday expressed concerns about how defunding Planned Parenthood might affect Yale students. Helen Price ’18, vice president of Reproductive Rights Action League of Yale, said since Yale Health refers students to Planned Parenthood for abortion services and contraceptive implants, reduced hours or closed health centers would significantly affect the provision of services available to students.

With Planned Parenthood activists occupying all four corners of the Chapel and College street intersection, a smaller gathering of about 10 pro-life activists rallied in support of defunding the organization.

“They’re ripping babies apart and then selling the baby parts for extra profit,” pro-life activist Wendy Brisart said.

Advocates from both sides of the ideological divide engaged in direct, heated discussion throughout the event. When one Planned Parenthood advocate told a pro-life activist that she needed to “educate [herself],” the activist responded, “you need to repent.”

Planned Parenthood advocate and family practitioner David Ross-Russell engaged in discussion with the pro-life activists about the role of Planned Parenthood in providing family planning services.

“If you really want to prevent abortions, you should provide access to good birth control at a low cost,” Ross-Russell said. “Planned Parenthood does that.”

Jessica Purcell LAW ’17, co-president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice at the Yale Law School, said that one of the greatest misconceptions about the rally and about Planned Parenthood is that the debate centers on abortion. She added that there is no federal funding for abortions, with the exception of cases of rape, incest and endangerment of the life of the mother.

Emma Roth LAW ’17, the other co-president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, said access to reproductive care has implications for women beyond solely reproductive health concerns.

“I think women’s access to reproductive health care is the first necessary step for them to achieve full political, economic and social equality,” Roth said.

Yesterday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards testified in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in response to the release of the controversial Planned Parenthood videos.