SALT LAKE CITY — Holding a sign denouncing Planned Parenthood for "selling baby parts," Robert Higginson said it is time for Americans to stand up for lives being lost to abortion.
"We are losing a generation of people that could continue great things," he said, calling it a serious constitutional issue. "They are unable to because they are dead."
About 100 Utahns joined in the peaceful protest outside the doors of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah's Metro Health Center, located at 160 S. 1000 East. It was one of more than 300 protests, two in Utah, that were held Saturday at clinics across the nation.
The thousands that gathered hoped to urge state and federal officials to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that collects more than $500 million in taxes every year and was recently criticized for its practices related to abortions, including the sale of human tissue.
Robert Woods, of Taylorsville, said public funding should only be used "for the protection and progression of human life."
"We need to defend those who can't defend themselves," he said, referring to the unborn children he believes are murdered in the event of an abortion.
"These babies are people and they deserve the same constitutional rights as everyone else," Higginson, of Bountiful, said.
Mary Boyle said her mother was advised by a doctor to curtail her pregnancy 23 years ago, due to a high probability that the baby would be born with Down syndrome. The same advice came with a younger sibling of Boyle's, but fortunately, for them, Boyle's mother declined and ultimately gave birth to the two girls, both of whom are healthy.
"She told them that she would love us no matter what and I think anyone should be that way," Boyle, 23, said. "Any parent not willing to love their kid unconditionally doesn't deserve to have a kid at all."
The Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for sexual and reproductive health and educational outreach on those topics, reports that over 3,290 abortions were conducted in Utah in 2011. The rate is far lower than the national average, and has decreased in recent years, but Brian Brady, of the Breath of Life ministry, said "even one is too many."
Every week, he spends hours outside one of the two Planned Parenthood clinics in Utah that are licensed to provide abortions, pleading with patients going in for the service.
"We are a last line of defense," Brady said, adding that he extends help to connect women to adoption services, offers to provide room and board and other supplies or costs for the pregnancy and baby, and shares gospel principles that preach forgiveness and hope.
"There is nothing we won't do for them," he said.
Bruce Rigby, who organized the Salt Lake City protest, said that prior to the recent outcry regarding Planned Parenthood, he had "no idea abortions were taking place in Utah — not in my state."
More than abortion, he said, he is "against the selling and harvesting" of body parts, an illegal practice in the United States.
"Babies don't have the choice. Consenting adults can do what they want, but babies don't have the choice," Rigby said. "I want to help women understand they have other options."
Rigby adopted a daughter and said there are hundreds of families waiting to do so.
"There are people anxious and line up and waiting to adopt," said Fred Owens, who adopted four children and one granddaughter. He and his wife dealt with infertility for more than a decade and lost a biological daughter who was still born at six months gestation.
Owens, of Orem, said the nation is outraged at mass killings, but that Planned Parenthood is doing the same thing by killing babies before they are born.
"It should not be happening," he said. "We should allow all men the same privilege."
No opposing viewpoints appeared at Saturday's local protest, though the clinic where it was held is closed on Saturdays. A rally for Planned Parenthood is scheduled at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25, at the Utah State Capitol.
"We've gone beyond our limits," said LaDawn McNeal, of Rose Park. "God will not hold us innocent if we don't stand for his plan."
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