On Saturday, dozens of Yale students and community members donned pink and waved signs as part of a peaceful pro-choice counter protest near Planned Parenthood on Whitney Avenue.
The “Lovefest for Choice” — co-organized by University coalition Yale Students for Reproductive Justice and community group Women Organized to Resist and Defend — unfolded in response to a planned protest by Operation Rescue, a national pro-life organization. Members of the pro-life group traveled from Colorado to New Haven early last week to demonstrate on Saturday alongside a dozen pro-life activists from Milford. Yale Students for Reproductive Justice, a recently formed coalition of reproductive justice groups at the various graduate schools, heard about Operation Rescue’s protest plans and organized the Lovefest in response, said organizer Anna Fiastro SPH ’17. On the opposite sidewalk, at least 40 pro-choice students and city residents peacefully advocated for reproductive justice.
“What we’re trying to do is not really create an environment of hostility with the protestors,” Katie Liptak ’19, a member of Reproductive Justice Action League at Yale, said. “We’re just trying to create positive energy to counteract the hate that they’re giving off for people who might be coming into Planned Parenthood today or passing by.”
Operation Rescue members met at the New Haven Green on Saturday morning to protest, but decided to join the weekly protest at Planned Parenthood. Counter-protesters followed along to the new location, where protestors, armed with angry signs and violent rhetoric, shouted at the pink-clad cluster across the street.
RALY member Katherine Hong ’19 said there was no point in engaging with the “hostile” protestors, many of which had directly confronted pro-choice counter-protestors on the sidewalk, as they were “lying and spreading false information.”
Counter-protesters highlighted that the reproductive-health services extend beyond abortions. Planned Parenthood, and the broader umbrella of reproductive justice, offers paid family leave and support for women who choose to have children, Liptak said.
Reproductive rights matter across lines of race, economic status, class and ability, and supporting reproductive justice and Planned Parenthood can alleviate other problems, she added.
One of the counter-protesters, who did not wish to be identified, argued that women of color fight for their choices every day and reproductive health shouldn’t have to be one such fight.
New Haven’s Planned Parenthood chapter sees protests beyond the one on Saturday, as the pro-life group from Milford pickets the property every week, said Yale Students for Reproductive Justice member Sonia Taneja MED ’19. Volunteers from community group WORD serve as support for Planned Parenthood patients and employees at these weekly protests, said IV, a WORD volunteer who asked to be identified by first name only. The group also does mass action events about once a month, which can attract between 50 and 80 pro-choice community members. According to IV, at these events, representatives from the Yale community include both undergraduate and graduate students, with an especially large number coming from the Yale Divinity School.
“Our focus is to try to make the experience as OK as possible for patients and workers, which is why for example, when we started doing our weekly clinic defense, we made a strategic decision to stand here on Whitney as opposed to actually being at the [Planned Parenthood] entrance, because [protestors] can get very violent and vitriolic verbally, and when they get loud it makes it a lot harder for patients,” IV said. “We tend to station ourselves over here and have a positive display up and down the street, and when patients come off the bus or are walking over here, we can escort them safely.”
After about two hours, pro-life demonstrators packed up and moved to the New Haven courthouse to condemn abortion, although court was not in session on Saturday.
Planned Parenthood is located at 345 Whitney Ave.