Planned Parenthood Supporters Rally At Utah Capitol

Rally at capitolPlanned Parenthood supporters flooded the Utah State Capitol last night, many wearing pink, some holding signs, and all of them pissed off about Governor Gary R. Herbert’s decision to put politics over good policy by cutting funding for abstinence education, STI screenings, and reparations for victims of sexual assault. Over a thousand people (or more by my estimate) showed up to #StandWithPP at Tuesday’s press conference where Planned Parenthood CEO, Karrie Galloway kicked the night off with a stern reminder that “The governor has chosen politics over health care.”

Herbert’s decision is clearly political–funding cuts came the night before the Utah Republican State Convention. Speakers throughout the night reiterated that this decision isn’t about abortion services, because none of the diverted money funded abortion–only medical procedures and education services. Candidate for House District 9, Steve Olson, a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aptly pointed out that Herbert’s decision will likely cause an increase in abortions because of service cuts.

One of the night’s most powerful stories came from Leah Weisgal, President of Westminster’s Students for Choice, and a former recipient of Planned Parenthood’s services. Leah’s overcame heroin addiction, and went on to thrive in higher education, which she credits to the life-saving abortion she received from Planned Parenthood at age fourteen (Weisgal was a victim of abuse). Several other student activists shared their stories about the transformative power of Planned Parenthood’s after-school education programs, which are the most impacted by Herbert’s funding cuts.

But it wasn’t all students and service recipients at the rally, several politicians came out to show their support, including: Representative Angela Romero (D), Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D), and Senator Jim Dabakis (D) to name a few. Representative Romero recalled moving to Salt Lake City from Tooele as a young adult without healthcare, and Planned Parenthood was the only place she could go for her annual gynecological exam. Romero made it clear that she stood in front of the crowd as a practicing Catholic, but that her religious views and her support of the organization go hand-in-hand.

Everyone present did a great job, but the speaker who stole the show was the passionate and irreverent, Reverend Topher Mehlhoff. Mehlhoff, is a Christian Minister in Salt Lake City who is a vocal supporter of a woman’s right to choose. He came to remind the throngs of people that:

Opponents of PP do not have a monopoly on the God who cares for everyone. So next time you hear someone shooting their mouth off about what God hates, please, tell them from me: Do NOT use my Lord’s name is vain.

Topher explained to  everyone, including the handful of anti-choice protestors in the crowd, that the God he believes in supports free agency:

This God is for pregnancy testing for poor women and families. This God is for diagnosing and treating diseases in victims of rape and sexual assault. This god is for educating women about their bodies. This God is for women. 

The night ended with stories from the crowd about how Planned Parenthood has positively impacted their lives–a perfect way to round out the evening in front of what Representative Romero repeatedly called, “the people’s house.” As of this article Governor Herbert has not changed his position. I urge you to continue writing his office, it only takes a minute, and you can use these tips on how to write public officials. Keep an eye out for more updates on how you can support your local Planned Parenthood clinic, and thank you to everyone who showed up Tuesday night!

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