SALT LAKE CITY — Protesters carrying signs against abortion gathered outside a Planned Parenthood Association of Utah office Tuesday afternoon to call on government officials to strip funding from the reproductive health organization.
The rally drew about 100 people and was one of 65 "Women Betrayed" protests that took place across the nation Tuesday, ignited by the release of three videos over the past few weeks showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the price of procuring fetal tissue.
"The videos were horrific," said rally organizer Callie Oppedisano, a mother of three and active anti-abortion activist. "We want our Congress to know we want Planned Parenthood to be defunded. We want no tax dollars going to an organization that betrays women."
A crowd of children, young parents and older people clapped and cheered as Oppedisano and other speakers accused Planned Parenthood of deceiving women and treating abortion as a business transaction.
Many held signs saying "Abortion Hurts Women" and "Women Deserve Better Than Abortion."
Protester Alyssa Nielson, 24, said she had “always been pro-life,” but had never voiced her opinions publicly.
Holding her 17-month-old son on her shoulders, Nielson grew emotional as Oppedisano told a story about a woman who came to her for counseling and ultimately decided to carry her triplets to term and give them up for adoption.
“To think of killing a child before they even have a chance in the world is so awful to me," Nielson said. "They have something planned for them. They're coming into this world for a reason."
Between the Planned Parenthood office and the protesters stood nine Planned Parenthood supporters and employees, who held a large pink banner stating, "Health Care Happens Here."
They remained nonconfrontational and did not react as protesters accused the organization of murdering children and profiting from abortion.
The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah declined to comment on the rally but did release a statement condemning the third and latest undercover video — released just hours before the rally took place — as fraudulent and highly edited.
"While Planned Parenthood Association of Utah does not participate in fetal tissue donation programs, we stand by Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country who do,” Karrie Galloway, president of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said in the statement.
Galloway said that Planned Parenthood donates tissue "for lifesaving research only with consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards, and nobody benefits financially."
Kristina Hernandez, communications director for Students for Life of America, the nonprofit that organized the protests, said they had drawn "big numbers."
Most cities reported about 200 attendees, and some, like St. Paul, Minnesota, reported as many as 800, according to Hernandez.
“We’re estimating probably about 12,000 or 13,000 in all probably came out,” Hernandez said.
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