Hundreds of anti-abortion Colorado Springs residents spilled into Centennial Boulevard Saturday as part of a national push to protest Planned Parenthood.
People gathered outside Planned Parenthoods in seven Colorado cities and hundreds of others worldwide as part of the "National Pro-Life Vigil to defund Planned Parenthood," objecting claims that the organization sells fetal tissue for profit.
A series of videos was recently released by the Center for Medical Progress, which had secretly recorded Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of fetal organs for research. Planned Parenthood has denied making profits off the sale of fetal tissue, which is against the law. The organization provides fetal tissue for research and says it is reimbursed only for the costs of providing it.
Saturday, at least 300 people gathered on Centennial Boulevard near Planned Parenthood, holding signs disparaging the organization and pleading for passersby to choose life, love, adoption and redemption.
"The videos that have been released recently really made the realities of abortion such that I had to respond in action," said Rachelle Stephenson, 28, who joined the crowd with her husband, Joshua, 30, and their son Jonah, 1.
Social media has spread the claims about Planned Parenthood like wildfire, and this was the first time the Stephensons felt compelled to do something about it. They are Christians and want to give a voice to the unborn, they said.
The response to the protest was interesting to Joshua Stephenson, who noticed some drivers thrust middle fingers in their direction and others wave in support as they drove by.
"It's sad how polarizing the issue is," he said. He said he wasn't sure whether he should expect an aggressive protest, or one filled with love, but he was pleasantly surprised by the civility.
Several times, the whole rally joined together in prayerful song. A father of several adopted children spoke about how his kids' birth mothers choose to love them before they were even born, allowing him and his wife to have more kids when they were no longer able to do so biologically. Father Bill Carmody and Bishop Michael Sheridan with the Diocese of Colorado Springs also gave speeches.
"Every life is valuable," Rachelle Stephenson said. "In the womb, and abortion workers, too. Every life is precious. We stand for that, too."
Joseph Martone, 54, said he had protested at the site every day of the week leading up to Saturday's event. He protests at that corner several days a week, and has been arrested three times and at least once convicted of trespassing for getting too close to Planned Parenthood and approaching people headed for the clinic.
"I started stopping so many abortions, and that's all they care about," he said. "If I save a life, I'm going to do what God calls me to do."
Martone said he has been threatened and sometimes people in the parking lot drive at him as if to hit him with their cars, he said. He gives out his phone number so people can have someone to talk to, and he had to get a separate cellphone number because of all the calls, good and bad.
"It's worth it," he said Saturday. "It's worth everything I go through."
Contact Kassondra Cloos: 636-0362
Twitter: @Kassondra Cloos