NAPLES — Anti-abortion advocates gathered outside of Planned Parenthood in Naples on Saturday to express their disgust and opposition to news that the clinic will begin offering abortion services on Sept. 14.
“I was absolutely and totally upset and sick to my stomach that this is going to happen here,” said Eileen Hennessy, a director at Naples Pro-life Council. “This is a tragedy. We’re heartbroken.”
Almost every Saturday, 15 to 20 anti-abortion advocates routinely pray in protest outside of Planned Parenthood, at 1425 Creech Road. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has been a longstanding supporter of abortion rights and upholding the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion on Jan. 22, 1973.
“We have been coming out here to pray for 19 years now,’’ said Hennessy, whose husband is president of the Naples Pro-life Council. “We’re here every Saturday. It just so happened that the news came out yesterday and was in the paper today I guess.”
Most of the anti-abortion advocates said they believe that the news of abortions being offered in Collier County will bring out more protesters and prayers in the future.
Some of the anti-abortion advocates that hadn’t shown up recently came out this Saturday, Henessy said.
“It’s like they were spurred on by reading this, and were outraged to think such a horrible thing is going to happen here; that they’re going to kill babies right here in Naples,” she said.
Most of those gathered were Naples Pro-life Council members. According to the Naples Pro-life Council Web site, the organization’s mission is to promote anti-abortion legislation and education.
“We live in the neighborhood, and we’re very put off that they’re committing murder in our neighborhood,” said Harry Nell, an anti-abortion advocate who used to be on the board of directors of the Naples Pro-Life Council. “We sort of expected it, but it’s just a shock.”
Most of the anti-abortion advocates, such as Dolly Morash, said they preferred adoption as the alternative to abortion.
“I was dumbfounded,” said Morash, who has been praying outside of the Collier County Planned Parenthood for about a year. “I couldn’t believe it because I never thought they would do it.”
Planned Parenthood of Collier County made the decision to start offering abortions more than a year ago, said Char Wendel, president and chief executive officer of the local Planned Parenthood.
“Well right now, the majority of Planned Parenthoods around the country do offer abortions,” Wendel said. “We’re making a commitment nationwide to make sure that women have access to safe and legal abortions.”
The Collier County clinic, which is one of 25 clinics in Florida, currently offers a variety of sexual health services including counseling on alternatives to abortion such as adoption.
“The only thing we have not been doing is abortions,” Wendel said. “So we’re adding this to make sure our services are more comprehensive.”
Until Sept. 14, residents of Collier County who wish to have an abortion will be referred to other Planned Parenthoods clinics in Miami, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando and Jacksonville.
The Fort Myers Planned Parenthood offers the abortion pill, which terminates a pregnancy that has already occurred. The Collier County Planned Parenthood plans to start offering the abortion pill in October.
“Don’t confuse the abortion pill with emergency contraception,” Wendel said. “Emergency contraception, we do offer. Emergency contraception is available over the counter. You can buy it in any drug store, and it prevents a pregnancy from happening.”
Emergency contraception can be used up to 125 hours after unprotected sex, Wendel said.
Wendel said she doesn’t know whether more people will begin coming out and protesting.
“What I feel every week is that people should not be denying women and men access to reproductive and sexual health care,” said Wendel, who has been working for Planned Parenthood for 14 years. “So I don’t care if there’s a dozen there or a hundred people or even one person. You’re denying people access to basic health care that we all have a right to as Americans.”
About 15 people gathered this morning outside the offices of Planned Parenthood in Collier County, a day after the organization announced plans to start offering abortions.
The group was gathered to oppose Planned Parenthood's services and wasn’t there just because of Friday’s announcement, a representative said.
The group usually gathers outside the Creech Road offices on Saturday mornings, the representative said.