Juneau residents rally for Planned Parenthood at the corner of Egan and Channel Drives on Wednesday.

Juneau residents rally for Planned Parenthood at the corner of Egan and Channel Drives on Wednesday.

Change of tune outside Planned Parenthood

Commotion outside Planned Parenthood centers across the nation — mixed with disgruntled chants and signs — have become quite the norm, but on Wednesday a different message was seen in Juneau.

It started out as one Juneauite’s hope to sprinkle a bit of positivity after the recent tsunami of opposition facing the non-profit health care group. It turned into two dozen supporters, some in costume, conjuring support from passersby at the intersection of Glacier Valley Highway and Egan Drive.

Chelsie Harris, 29, created a Facebook page inviting friends to a “pro-picket” Wednesday evening. She said she didn’t expect to get such a supportive reaction.

“I just really wanted the opportunity to show the people who work there and put a lot of time into promoting health and wellness, that there are people who value their services,” Harris said.

Planned Parenthood has been the center of greater national attention than usual after the Center for Medical Progress released edited videos that the group alleges contain conversations about illegal sales of aborted fetal tissue.

Showing up in a neon-pink wig and white gown to hold a “JNU (loves) P.P.,” Harris said the idea behind wearing a costume was to keep the setting healthy, fun and bring the focus back to the good she said the organization does for women every day.

In keeping with the costume theme, SueAnn Randall, 62, wore a 10-foot-tall puppet that held a sign for her. Randall said her costume was “planned, conceived and born” for a past project, but she was happy to bring it out in support of reproductive rights for women.

“The very first time I voted, when I was 18 years old back in 1971, I voted for women to have a choice,” Randall, a mother of four and grandmother to eight, said. “I feel very strongly about safety, protection and taking care of each other.”

Agreement with Randall and Harris’ concern for the future of Planned Parenthood could be heard with dozens of honks per minute and well-meaning waves. The honks however, were sometimes a bit loud for two-week-old Yakobi, who came out with mother Irish Nash.

Nash said bringing her son along spoke to the cause.

“I had the conscious choice to bring him into my life and I’m grateful to have that choice and to be supported,” Nash said. “Planned Parenthood has always been there for me in a variety of ways from birth control to support with questions.”

Juneau’s Planned Parenthood staff is not unfamiliar with rallies outside their office — opposers of the clinic visit the site once a week — but LaRae Jones, a former Planned Parenthood board member, said those protesters tend to be men. Jones said the recent increased talk about closing Planned Parenthoods across the nation could only be described as abhorrent.

“Planned Parenthood is so much more than abortions,” Jones, who wore her shirt from the 2004 “March for Women’s Lives” in Washington D.C., said. “It’s a women’s health issue and we need to support women. Those who do not are not supportive of women.”

Attempts were made to speak with representatives from the Alaskans for Life organization Wednesday, but no one could not be reached for comment.

The rally was not officially connected to Planned Parenthood or the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition, Jones said, although JPCC does on occasion host such events. They aren’t as regular as opposition rallies, but recent conversations on the national stage, Harris said, gave her the motivation to make one happen.

Talks at the state level include a vote by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, earlier this year to defund Planned Parenthood, a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Earlier this week, a report by the Congressional Budget Office concluded that blocking federal funds for the non-profit would, by the year 2025, increase federal spending in programs such as Medicaid by $650 million due to decreased family planning options.

Harris, however, wasn’t outside Wednesday to discuss the logistics of federal funding or which way senators were voting. She said she visits the center regularly because it’s a place she can count on getting individualized care to fit her health care needs.

“I know all the ladies in there by name,” Harris said. “I want people to remember they offer so many valuable services.”

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited to clarify that illegal sales of aborted fetal tissue are an allegation.

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