Minnesota Abortion Action Committee counterprotests anti-choice ‘40 Days for Life’ vigil
St. Paul, MN – On Sunday, November 5, members of the Minnesota Abortion Action Committee held a rally, decorated cars with signs, flags, and written slogans before driving the streets of Saint Paul, and then rallied again in front of a so-called “vigil for the unborn” organized by Pro-Life Action Ministries, a Minnesota-based anti-choice religious group.
This action was organized in response to the closing vigil of a 40-day-long campaign by Pro-Life Action Ministries, in which the anti-abortion group occupied sidewalks in front of the Saint Paul Planned Parenthood. Pro-Life Action Ministries calls itself an “interdenominational Christian organization dedicated to publicly defending the sanctity of human life,” and its members are a common presence in front of facilities that provide abortion in the Twin Cities. They harass people trying to enter in an attempt to dissuade them from receiving abortions, and their pamphlets are rife with scare tactics and misinformation, such as spurious claims that abortions put people at risk of breast cancer and infertility, or that the first dose of a medication abortion can be “reversed” by taking large amounts of progesterone, an untested practice that lacks FDA approval.
Pro-Life Action Ministries is currently suing the city of Minneapolis over an ordinance passed last year by the city council entitled “Security of Reproductive Healthcare Facilities,” which prohibits the act of blocking access to the entrance of a reproductive healthcare facility. The group claims that this ordinance infringes on their freedom of speech, though their presence often frightens and intimidates people seeking care at these facilities.
“Even though abortion is legal in Minnesota for the time being, the social stigma and misinformation alone are enough to make people feel like abortion isn’t an option, and that stigma is alive and well with groups like these,” said MNAAC member Kristen Bledsoe in a speech preceding the car caravan. “It’s our goal today to let them know that they are not welcome here! The Twin Cities are a pro-abortion town!”
Bledsoe went on to highlight the plight of unionized Planned Parenthood workers facing repression from Planned Parenthood management, saying, “As members of MNAAC, we know that workers’ rights are reproductive rights are human rights, and we extend our solidarity in their struggle for better working conditions and fair treatment.”
MNAAC member Sarah Murphy highlighted the dangers of groups like Pro-Life Action Ministries and “crisis pregnancy centers,” saying, “These 40 Days for Life people want to make it even harder for Minnesotans and our neighbors to access reproductive healthcare. Planned Parenthood is a less-than-perfect organization, but they provide real, accurate, low-cost medical assistance to people who need it. These people camping out front saying their little prayers need to go away!”
The connection between reproductive rights and Palestinian liberation was further illustrated by Bledsoe. “The right-wing Christofascist forces behind crisis pregnancy centers and pro-life groups are the same ones behind bills that seek to criminalize the existence of trans people and further increase U.S. spending on police and military,” she said, “and they are the same ones behind the enormous sums of money that the U.S. sends to Israel to aid in their genocidal occupation of Palestine. Our politicians are sending taxpayer dollars to Israel so they can continue bombing hospitals and refugee camps. And these decisions are influenced by ‘pro-life’ lobbyists, who claim to care about the sanctity of human life!”
After decorating cars with slogans like “Eight clinics is not enough for a sanctuary state” and “Abortion is healthcare,” attendees caravanned down University Avenue, attracting cheers from passersby, before driving to the Planned Parenthood and parking in front of a small crowd of anti-abortion protesters. Chanting “Abortion is healthcare! Abortion is essential!” and “Pro-Life? That’s a lie! You don’t care if people die!”, MNAAC members confronted the protesters for several minutes and successfully disrupted their vigil.
MNAAC continues its campaign against crisis pregnancy centers via education and outreach, protests outside of “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) and progress toward regulating CPCs at the city level. You can follow their work on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @MN_AAC.