By JOHN FORTMEYER
BEAVERTON — Only time will tell whether the immediate and massive groundswell of protests against Planned Parenthood here, in other Northwest cities and across the nation will truly prove pivotal in changing society’s attitudes and laws regarding abortion.
But one thing is clear — the recent release of undercover videos detailing apparent procedures at Planned Parenthood facilities across the U.S. has sparked unprecedented outrage and activity among pro-life Americans, the vast majority of them Christians.
“It’s sickening and depraved,” said Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Salem-based Oregon Right to Life, as one of several speakers at a July 28 rally outside Planned Parenthood’s offices in downtown Beaverton. Attracting 250 people, the event was one of 65 rallies that day nationally — hurriedly scheduled within days of the initial release of videos. A similar gathering that day in Vancouver, Wash., drew 100.
Since then, organized pro-life protests have exploded throughout the nation. At least 70,000 people took part on Aug. 25 in rallies in 350 cities in 49 states, according to the web site ProtestPP.com. In Washington, protests were held in 15 cities, with turnouts as high as 500 in Spokane and Pullman and more than 300 in Vancouver. In Oregon, out of seven locations, highest counts were about 300 each at both Portland and Salem; other sites included Bend, Eugene, Grants Pass, Med-ford and Roseburg. The videos — eight so far — were released gradually by the Center for Medical Progress, a Cali-fornia-based anti-abortion organization.
They were secretly recorded by actors as they met with Planned Parenthood officials to discuss acquiring tissues samples from aborted fetuses. The videos purport to confirm a wide range of clinic activities pro-life activists and leaders say are illegal, immoral, horrific and barbaric, including selling intact aborted babies as well as body parts and even harvesting the brain of an aborted baby who was still alive.
In response, two congressional committees and a number of states have launched investigations of the agency and efforts are being pursued in Congress to end all federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
Placed squarely on the defensive by the massive reaction, Planned Parent-hood condemned the videos as deceptively edited and said the opportunity to donate fetal tissue for research purposes has been a source of comfort for many women who undergo abortions at the agency’s clinics.
The breadth of pro-life opposition to Planned Pa-renthood was demonstrated at the Beaverton rally, where speakers, in addition to Atteberry, included Lisa Stiller of Democrats for Life; former Benson High School teacher and longtime Planned Parenthood critic Bill Diss; author Cindy Brunk; abortion-healing group leader Patti Williamson; and state Rep. Bill Post of Salem. The rally was organized by Portland Community Col-lege Students for Life, including Melody Durrett and Caleb Knezevich.
Stiller told the crowd that the concerns being expressed transcend partisan politics.
“This is not a left wing, right wing or center issue,” she said. “This is an issue for every single person,”
Citing the scriptural admonition in Galatians 6:2 to gently bear one another’s burdens, Brunk called for compassionate outreach to those who have already chosen abortion and who now feel deep pain and regret as a result.
She also expressed optimism that the fresh energies young newcomers are bringing to the pro-life movement and showing at the rallies can result in big and positive change.
“Today I find it hard to discover the words, to convey my excitment over what this pro-life generation can do,” she said.