Supporters, opponents of Planned Parenthood stage rallies
Opponents and advocates of legalized abortion converged on U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire's Aliquippa office Tuesday afternoon, staging separate rallies to criticize and support federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Aliquippa was one of 11 cities in seven states targeted by the Susan B. Anthony List, a Washington-based anti-abortion organization opposed to funding for Planned Parenthood, which offers abortion services.
Activists targeted Altmire, D-McCandless, because of his vote last month against an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Spence, R-Ind., to cut Planned Parenthood funding. The amendment, part of a House bill to fund the federal government through September, passed 240-185. It is now in the Senate.
"Planned Parenthood is a billion-dollar organization getting $360 million a year from the taxpayers," said Marilyn Musgrave, Susan B. Anthony List's project director and a former Republican congresswoman from Colorado. "We want (Altmire) to vote at his next opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood."
Altmire said he opposes abortion and that federal law prevents funds from being used for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger.
"I have never voted -- and I will never vote -- for any federal funding for abortion," he said, noting that Planned Parenthood offers women numerous other health and family-planning services. "I believe family-planning services help prevent abortion."
About 60 people attended the rally, which started around 5 p.m. Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania staged a pre-emptive rally about an hour earlier at Altmire's office on McLean Street.
Kimberlee Evert, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, said the organization's health and family-planning services are free and that 80 percent of its clients have no health insurance.
"Basically these extremists are coming to our community and trying to take away this care from these women, who are very happy with it," Evert said. "We're talking about preventative-care services that women need."