Rally to defund Planned Parenthood draws nearly 200 supporters

Aaron Lambert

A crowd of nearly 200 gathered outside of Planned Parenthood in Stapleton Saturday, calling for the defunding of the organization.

The rally was one of 228 similar ones that occurred across the nation and were sponsored by Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal and the Pro-Life Action League in conjunction with local pro-life groups all over the country.

The event featured several speakers, including Bethany Janzen of Students for Life of America and Father Andre Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka’s Maronite Catholic Church in Lakewood, who led the group in prayer.

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Fr. Andre Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church, leads the crowd in prayer during the rally to defund Planned Parenthood across the street from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on February 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Father Andre Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church, leads the crowd in prayer during the rally to defund Planned Parenthood across the street from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on February 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

The protest was peaceful in nature and was met with little opposition at the site. Protesters sought to send a message of love and argued that the federal funds allocated to Planned Parenthood be directed toward other federal health centers that don’t provide abortions.

“The main message is that there is hope, that life is valuable, human life at whatever stage, age, development and that we can actually stand, we can make a difference, we can love both the mother and child,” Janzen said.

Hours after this rally, Planned Parenthood supporters gathered outside of Senator Cory Gardner’s office to call on him to vote to keep the organization funded.

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 11: Bethany Janzen, the Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator for Students for Life, speaks during a rally to defund Planned Parenthood across the street from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on February 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Bethany Janzen, the Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator for Students for Life, speaks during a rally to defund Planned Parenthood across the street from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on February 11, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Planned Parenthood claims that without federal funds, thousands of women would be left without affordable reproductive healthcare, including access to contraception, testing and treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases, and other services such as breast cancer screenings. However, controversies regarding the services Planned Parenthood actually provides have arose in the past.

For those women looking for alternatives to Planned Parenthood for health care, Denver is home to a variety of clinics that offer that same sort of care and support, including Marisol Health, a Catholic-run organization that provides free ultrasounds, STD testing and treatment, OB/GYN services and more.

COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.