Beacon-News: Hultgren’s office center of Planned Parenthood funding dispute

This article originally appeared in the Beacon-News and on on March 8, 2011.

Hultgren’s office center of Planned Parenthood funding dispute
By: Matt Hanley

GENEVA — U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren’s new offices were baptized with protest Monday afternoon, as dueling Planned Parenthood rallies stopped around the corner from his new digs.

Hultgren announced the location of his offices on Monday, the same day competing busloads of people parked on Bradbury Lane to push their points of view on the debate over federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment that would eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. According to a National Public Radio report, Planned Parenthood receives about $330 million annually through Medicaid and grants. Federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions, but opponents say the federal support frees up money to perform the procedure.

Hultgren, a Republican from Winfield, voted for the bill — and so his new office at 1797 State St. became the Illinois stop on these competing truth tours.

Both groups had about 75 people in attendance, and both claimed to be the little guys fighting against a larger conspiracy that told lies and manipulated the media. Obviously, the similarities ended there.

Members of the Susan B. Anthony List “Women Speak Out” tour were there to cheer Hultgren’s vote, while the Illinois Planned Parenthood Truth Team talked about the wide range of health care services provided to women.

It’s unlikely that many minds were changed at the rallies, as both sides brought out their die-hard supporters who came with ready-made signs and buttons. There was very little non-shouting interaction between either side or with the public.

Hultgren was in the district, but was not at his office. Neither Hultgren, nor anyone in his staff, attended either rally.

The Illinois Planned Parenthood Truth Team was first, kicking off their rally at 3 p.m., in front of a big pink bus that listed statistics on health services offered to women annually.

“The health of the women we serve should not be a political issue,” said Sarah Williams, a clinician who works at Aurora’s Planned Parenthood clinic.

As the Planned Parenthood supporters cheered and held signs, opponents lined up further down the sidewalk, holding their own signs and trying to drown out some of the speakers.

“You lie!” some people shouted. “You hate our women! You cause cancer to our women!”

A Poplar Grove mother of two talked about how, when she left an abusive relationship, she lost her insurance. While earning her degree, she has been using Planned Parenthood’s health services, like cancer screenings.

“I am worthy of quality health care while I work to rebuild my life,” she said.

Although the atmosphere was tense, there were no physical confrontations and police reported no arrests at either rally.

Nearly all the Planned Parenthood supporters left when their rally ended, giving way to a group wearing “Defund Planned Parenthood” buttons at 4:15 p.m. The Susan B. Anthony List spent $11 million during the 2010 midterm elections, working to defeat pro-choice candidates.

Many speakers questioned the morality of abortion and said when the federal budget must be cut, Planned Parenthood is the natural choice.

“They don’t care about statutory rape,” said former Republican U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave from Colorado. “They don’t care about her spiritual health. And we are saying no more funding.”

Supporters were encouraged to e-mail or contact their local congressman and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, asking them to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

The competing truth tours will travel parallel paths toward the East Coast over the next week. The defunding group had made two stops in Iowa Monday morning, without any opposition. Geneva was the first time both tours were in the same place.

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