Two groups stood facing each other: One chanted through a speaker system “Hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go.” The other group, through a bullhorn, chanted, “My body, my choice.”
Students for Life of America, the largest pro-life youth organization in America, according to its website, made a stop at Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office at 200 N. High Street Wednesday night on its National #SockIt2PP Truck Tour. The stop was made to call on Brown to defund Planned Parenthood.
In response, supporters of Planned Parenthood showed up to challenge its message.
The groups came out in equal numbers, but rarely interacted directly. Instead, SFLA speakers spoke as the pro-choice group chanted over them.
SFLA’s demonstration featured speeches by the group’s president, Kristan Hawkins, and Miami University student Ellen Wittman.
Wittman said she felt if the people protesting her were educated on the issues, they would change their minds to support pro-life ideas.
“If we can even save one life and change one mind on abortion, it’s worth it,” Wittman said. “That’s what keeps me going. Helping these people understand our side of the argument so they can come around and eventually become pro-life.”
SFLA brought a truck to the event that held 328,348 baby socks, which it said represented the number of children aborted by Planned Parenthood this year.
But as the group was finishing setting up their truck to begin the event, a group of counter-protesters showed up. Among this group was Ohio State student Mahalea Whitehead, a second-year in international studies, who said she was a strong believer in access to proper healthcare for women and all people.
“When I see organizations like the one out here today spreading misinformation and trying to put a stop to that access, it definitely fires me up,” Whitehead said. “I want to make sure that we have people out here countering that, and letting people know that [what they say] is not real.”
As the SFLA event started, the protesters opposing their pro-life message pushed in closer, holding signs in speakers’ faces, making sure their messages covered those of the opposing group.
Throughout most of her speech, Hawkins was met with opposing chants. At one point, counter-protestors caused Hawkins to stop her speech, and ask them to allow her to talk.
When Hawkins said Planned Parenthood was illegally selling body parts she was loudly met with chants of “Lies, lies, lies.”
Hawkins said in an interview she has seen the mentality on campuses changing in the discussion around abortion.
“[The mentality] has really changed. That’s why we use the slogan ‘I am the pro-life generation,’” Hawkins said. “Statistics show it. We did a poll last summer we released. Fifty-three percent of 18- to 24-year olds, millennials, Planned Parenthood’s target audience, say that abortion should be illegal. Millennials think abortion is immoral.”
Sixty-five percent of people less than 30 years old believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center.
Hawkins said in her speech that it’s finally time to defund Planned Parenthood.
“Pro-lifers were told we had to stand-by till after the election,” Hawkins said. “That time has come.”
While SFLA stood in opposition of Brown’s support for Planned Parenthood, Whitehead said she came out to thank the senator for standing firm.
“We love him. He’s been an advocate for reproductive healthcare in the past and we want him to continue to be,” Whitehead said. “We want him to know that we are here and that we appreciate him and that we are a stronger voice than the opposition.”
As Wittman — a veteran of these events having orchestrated events with Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development — got up to speak, the event reached a fever pitch.
She relayed the story of a woman, named Carrie, who had chosen to continue her pregnancy even when she was told it could cost her life, and it did.
“To the world this was the act of a heroine,” Wittman said. “But to Carrie the act was instinctive.”
At the end of the night, as the warring chants prevailed, it was unclear if either side changed any minds, but Hawkins said her group had a simple message.
“Defund the nation’s largest abortion vendor,” she said. “Planned Parenthood.”