About 200 people rallied in front of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania at noon Tuesday to show support for the embattled national organization and its services.
Across the country, nearly 300 similar events were scheduled in 90 cities to protest Republican-led Congressional efforts to cut funding for Planned Parenthood's cancer screenings, birth control and other health services. (Federal funding of abortions is prohibited with rare exceptions.)
Supporters, many wearing pink shirts emblazoned "Stand with Planned Parenthood," filled the block in front of the Southeastern Pennsylvania affiliate near 11th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia, which was sealed off by a city civil affairs unit car.
Some attendees carried placards that declared "Don't Take Away Our Care" or "426 Congressman have never needed a pap smear." Many signed a petition calling on Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) "to stop opposing Planned Parenthood's ability to provide care."
Several women, standing on a flatbed truck wrapped in pink vinyl, described their personal experiences at Planned Parenthood clinics and praised the organization's role in caring for teens and the poor.
So did onlooker Melissa Robbins, 42, of Fox Chase. "If there is a teen, nervous and afraid at home, I want her to know they can feel safe and confident coming here," Robbins said. "I was a crazy teen at one time. I personally benefited from having this place."
Planned Parenthood's latest clash with conservatives started in July, when an anti-abortion group began releasing secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood executives candidly talking about supplying fetal tissue for medical research.
Critics accuse the 99-year-old non-profit network of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. The organization says it charges only to cover handling and other costs, which is legal under a 1993 law; it also says the videos have been edited to be deceptive.