Oil and water in the forms of abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates clashed in front of Congressman Randy Hultgren's district office in Geneva Monday afternoon with competing messages about federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Hultgren's office drew rallies from both sides of the issue as a result of his recent vote in favor of what's known as the Pence Amendment. The amendment, crafted by Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence, defunds Planned Parenthood as part of the ideological battle surrounding funding for President Barack Obama's health care laws. The amendment passed the House and now awaits consideration by the senators, including Illinois' Mark Kirk.
Abortion opponents booed the mention of Kirk's name Monday. They're not assured of his support for something they view as federal funding for abortions. Indeed, a slew of speakers cast Planned Parenthood in a variety of negative images. Former Colorado Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave went as far as saying Planned Parenthood engages in aiding and abetting sex trafficking and ignores instances of statutory rape as a matter of common practice.
"We're at a fiscal crisis and at a time of moral outrage," Musgrave said in calling for the end of taxpayer dollars funding Planned Parenthood.
Kelly Gorsky, co-founder of the Waterlead Women's Center, reframed a social debate with a fiscal context.
"If there are so many people willing to support (Planned Parenthood), then solicit your funding from them," Gorsky said. "Since when did recreational sex become health care? Could it be that they're not actually looking out for women but for their bottom line?"
Gorsky's comments followed the abortion rights advocates' portion of the rally led by Planned Parenthood staff and supporters. They toted signs asking Congress to not take away the birth control, cancer screenings and STD testing Planned Parenthood provides. The word "abortion" neither appeared on the signs, nor was it uttered during the rally. Instead, supporters emphasized the access to women's health services Planned Parenthood clinics provide.
For many, such as Warrenville's Kelly Cosgrove, the clinics opened a door to services she couldn't afford otherwise. Cosgrove said she worked for several years at a job with an insurance plan that provided no coverage for birth control costs.
"Can you believe it?" Cosgrove asked the cheering crowd.
Other women told stories about losing health insurance following divorce and Planned Parenthood being the only way they could get regular health screenings.
"Without this federal support we could not care for these women," said Planned Parenthood of Illinois Spokeswoman Brigid Leahy, who called Hultgren an "extreme politician."
"Planned Parenthood is about women's health, plain and simple. The budget passed by the U.S. House is the most dangerous assault on women's health in our country."