Planned Parenthood protesters mark the start of 40 Days of Life

Bishop Frank Dewane, center, leads a march down 14th Street North during a protest by abortion opponents outside of Planned Parenthood in Naples on March 9, 2011. Hundreds of Abortion opponents, including Bishop Dewane, kicked off the 40 Days of Life protest on Ash Wednesday, which they will continue every day until Easter. Greg Kahn/Staff

Photo by GREG KAHN // Buy this photo

Bishop Frank Dewane, center, leads a march down 14th Street North during a protest by abortion opponents outside of Planned Parenthood in Naples on March 9, 2011. Hundreds of Abortion opponents, including Bishop Dewane, kicked off the 40 Days of Life protest on Ash Wednesday, which they will continue every day until Easter. Greg Kahn/Staff

40 Days for Life

Demonstrators gather at the Planned Parenthood in ...

Planned Parenthood of Naples

1425 Creech Road, Naples, FL

— On a decisively sunny morning in Naples, one thing anti-abortion protestors and Planned Parenthood volunteer escorts had in common today was umbrellas.

Outside the perimeters of the Naples Planned Parenthood, which has performed abortions since 2009, quite of few demonstrators held umbrellas, in addition to the signs and rosary beads, to shade themselves from the sun.

In the parking lot of the clinic, Planned Parenthood volunteers had a different purpose for their large golf umbrellas — to shield the identity of patients as they were escorted to and from their cars.

It was there that most of the similarities ended.

The 40 Days for Life anti-abortion vigil drew a large crowd of demonstrators to the Planned Parenthood in Naples today to pray for the end of abortions.

Roughly 150 demonstrators, including Diocese of Venice Bishop Frank Dewane, turned out this morning. In addition to praying together, participants also held signs with such messages as “Planned Parenthood kills babies,” “Women do regret abortions” and “Men regret lost fatherhood.”

Similar faith-based protests are occurring in 247 cities around the world, according to the 40 Days for Life website.

The demonstration, the third of its kind in Naples, is being organized locally by the Diocese of Venice, which oversees the Catholic church parishes in Collier County. The Diocese organized shuttles to carry demonstrators from parking lots on U.S. 41 to the clinic on Creech Road.

Dewane arrived at the event after officiating a morning Ash Wednesday service at St. William Catholic Church in North Naples. With the beginning of the Lent, a 40-day period of atonement observed by Catholics, Dewane said his sermon focused on personal sacrifice and “the value of life.”

Organizer Jo An Carter said the goal of the protest was to shut down the Planned Parenthood and end abortion through prayer.

Short of that, Carter said she expects the demonstrators will deter some patients seeking abortions at the clinic.

Although Planned Parenthood only performs abortions on Mondays, church groups will rotate holding signs and praying by the Planned Parenthood 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays until April 16.

Char Wendel, the president of Planned Parenthood of Collier County, said the demonstration is a disruption to day-to-day business. Patients arriving often confuse protestors with the clinic’s staff, she said.

But that’s one of the goals of the demonstrators, she said.

“The whole purpose of ‘40 Days’ is to intimidate and harass our patients and staff,” she said.

However, the clinic has seen little drop-off in business of providing what Wendel terms “reproductive health assistance” during the previous two 40 Days for Life events, she reported.

As for her staff, she said the demonstration only “strengthens the commitment” to do their job.

Wendel said she thinks demonstrators are not fully aware of Planned Parenthood’s goal. She said out of the more than 12,000 medical services it provided in 2010, 446 of those were abortions.

“Three percent of the total work we do is abortion-related,” Wendel said, while the rest goes toward preventing unplanned pregnancies through health care and education.

However, Carter said protestors are asked to be respectful and non-confrontational.

The first day was largely quiet and somber, save for the spoken prayers and the cars horns signaling the approval or disapproval of the demonstrations from passing drivers.

One of the noisier moments was when Jim DeLuca, a member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Ann Catholic Church and a secular musician, played Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria” on his trumpet amongst the silent demonstrators.

As he played the song, bringing several protestors to tears, DeLuca aimed the horn at the Planned Parenthood building.

DeLuca said rather than trying to harass the staff and patients at the clinic, he was offering his song as a prayer to compel a change of heart.

“So these young girls make a choice – which is the law of the land – not to have an abortion,” he said.

For more information about 40 Days for Life visit the website www.40DaysforLife.com. For more information on Planned Parenthood visit www.plannedparenthood.org.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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