Rebecca Karabus

About 35 Greater New Haven pro-life advocates called on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood at a rally Saturday morning.

The rally — held outside New Haven’s Planned Parenthood center — came as part of a nationwide demonstration sponsored by three different pro-life organizations: Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal and Pro-Life Action League. Protestors also gathered at four other Planned Parenthood locations throughout the state: Danbury, Enfield, Stamford and West Hartford as part of this nationwide movement.

Vice President of Legislative Affairs at Connecticut Right to Life Chris O’Brien, who promoted the event, said the rally was the second nationwide demonstration this year calling for the government to defund Planned Parenthood, a health care provider that offers a variety of reproductive and maternal services including abortions.

Individuals from several organizations united around a common message at the rally.

“Murder is happening here,” said Martha Ibarra-Beard, a member of Operation Save America, a fundamentalist Christian conservative organization. “There has to be a voice for the innocent.”

The Connecticut branches of Planned Parenthood receive four separate forms of state funding, CT Right to Life reported in a Wednesday press release. CT Right to Life described one of these family planning funds as “unrestricted,” in the press release, adding that although the funding may not be directly intended for abortions, the money can be used to finance them. O’Brien said that while more than $296 million was cut this year from state hospital budgets, the unrestricted grant to Planned Parenthood — amounting to $1,060,091 in taxpayer dollars — was left untouched.

Attendance at Saturday’s rally was not as high as it was in August, when 350 Planned Parenthood locations were picketed nationwide, Citizens for a Pro-Life Society National Director Monica Miller said. But with 290 picket locations and an estimated 30,000 participants nationwide, this month’s rally was still impressive, especially given the lack of a breaking news story to galvanize activists, she added.

The first of the two national rallies Miller’s organization co-sponsored, held Aug. 22, was in direct response to a controversial Planned Parenthood video released by the Center for Medical Progress, a California-based anti-abortion group.

Norma Contois, a pro-life activist who attended the New Haven rally, said she joined the protest because she believes Planned Parenthood makes 86 percent of its revenue from performing abortions. Only 14 percent of revenue, Contois estimates, comes from other women’s health services.

Many of Saturday’s activists scrutinized Planned Parenthood’s choice to brand itself as a health care provider given the limited range of services the organization offers.

“How many mammogram machines do you have?” asked rally attendee Amber Trawick through a megaphone during the rally.

Any doctor can perform a breast cancer screening, O’Brien said. But Planned Parenthood does not offer mammograms because it does not have licensed radiographers, he added.

“Planned Parenthood stands for a death sentence, while Operation Save America stands for a life sentence,” Ibarra-Beard said.

Members of the coalition unanimously emphasized that education is an important form of family planning. O’Brien said he would rather see the state invest in social services for parents and children, as opposed to funding Planned Parenthood.

Contois said women experiencing unplanned pregnancies are often unaware of how much pre- and post-natal support is available to them. There are more crisis pregnancy centers — nonprofits that counsel women to carry their pregnancies to term — than abortion clinics nationwide, she said.

Planned Parenthood ended 2014 with a $127 million surplus, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards said during a congressional hearing.