40 Days for Life Midpoint March continues dueling protests
COLUMBIA- Politically-charged signs and banners stood in stark contrast with the snow Sunday afternoon at Columbia's Planned Parenthood, where two marches met to push their two very different messages.
On one end, Columbia's 40 Days for Life organization held their midpoint march around the black gates of Planned Parenthood, carrying a large wooden cross with the words "everlasting life" painted in white. The group of protestors gathered to form a Jericho march, a biblical demonstration.
"In it, the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho seven times and it fell," said Kathy Forck, co-campaign director of Columbia's 40 Days for Life. "And we have done Jericho marches here before, and we think its an important thing to do, to bring that belief that God is going to tear this building down and stop abortions here."
On another end, wearing feathered boas and blaring on the trumpet, the Guild of Silly Heathens sang and chanted over the other group's megaphone. Protestors on unicycles weaved between the pro-lifers while signage encouraged honks from passing cars.
The Guild of Silly Heathens, who pride themselves on using "humor, satire and sex-positive messages," chose to disrupt the "zealots" today to keep the conversation two-sided.
"We come out here to provide a visible presence and voice for the pro-choice contingence and have fun while we're doing it," said Renee Maxwell, founder of the guild.
Maxwell had her personal reasons for bearing the cold. She lives in a neighborhood near Columbia's Planned Parenthood clinic, and said she's seen and heard too many Jericho marches.
"This has been bugging me for a lot of years, to be subjected to this nonsense," Maxwell said.
40 Days for Life's guest speaker for Sunday's midpoint march was Jan Kruse, a woman who had an abortion at a younger age and later became a pro-life advocate.
"She had nowhere to go, and we don't want that to happen to the women here in Columbia. We want them to know by the information that we give them," Forck said.
Forck said their organization looks to make a cultural rather than a political change through community outreach. She said she comes in front of Planned Parenthood not to spread a message of hate, but a message of assistance.
"Our message is one of love and peace and hope, not one of judgement, because all of us have done something we're not proud of, and we know that these women need help," Forck said.
But Maxwell said the organization should stay out of abortion politics.
"Abortion is a legal and safe procedure that women have a constitutional right to access, and therefore we're here to say: stop messing with women's rights, stop messing with our reproductive rights and stop messing with out healthcare, it's none of your business," Maxwell said. "If you don't like abortions don't have one. Let women make that choice themselves, it's between a woman and her doctor."