Bangor Daily News: Portland religious leaders denounce Planned Parenthood violence

“I think the call from political leaders to defund Planned Parenthood will only lead to more suffering and misery by the most vulnerable members of our communities who depend upon organizations like Planned Parenthood for their care,” said Ellison, a retired professor of Christian ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary.

Religious leaders hosted a vigil that drew about 100 people to Monument Square on Tuesday night to denounce the shooting at a Planned Parenthood health center in Colorado that killed three people and injured nine others.

Presbyterian minister Marvin Ellison and other local religious leaders denounced violence as a reaction to any moral conflict over abortion and contraception.

Opal Laplante (left) and daughter Sadie, 6, hold candles on Tuesday in Portland's Monument Square during a vigil remembering the four people killed in Colorado Springs at a Planned Parenthood health center.  “From the very beginning, the family planning movement has been controversial,” Ellison said. “What’s troubling is when people turn to violence and threats of violence to try and overcome that deep moral conflict. I think it’s important then to clearly state as a community, ‘we will not respond to violence with violence.’

”Ellison was joined at the vigil by the Rev. Christina Sillari of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland, Pastor Maria Anderson of St. Ansgar Lutheran Church and the Rev. Anne Fowler, an Episcopal priest.

The attack in Colorado killed two civilians and a police officer, and it was denounced by political leaders, including those who have called for stripping Planned Parenthood of federal funding.

Religious leaders in Portland on Tuesday praised the work Planned Parenthood does in the background of the controversy.

“I think the call from political leaders to defund Planned Parenthood will only lead to more suffering and misery by the most vulnerable members of our communities who depend upon organizations like Planned Parenthood for their care,” said Ellison, a retired professor of Christian ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary.

That includes people such as Lonni, a transgender patient of Planned Parenthood in Portland who declined to provide a last name because they have not yet discussed their transition with their family.

That process has been difficult, Lonni said.

“Planned Parenthood is an organization that is currently seeing me through the darkest time in my life,” Lonni said. “Had it not been for them, I don’t know if I would be strong enough to make it in this life.”

The vigil was held as the organization faces heightened scrutiny after the release of secretly recorded videos that the anti-abortion group The Center for Medical Progress alleged showed the group illegally selling fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood, which has 700 health centers around the country, has denied the accusation, ordering an independent review of the videos that discredited them and claiming they were deceptively edited.

Nicole Clegg, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, on Tuesday called the videos a “smear campaign” that “lends itself to a culture of stigma and shame for women who are just seeking health care.”

“It’s unfortunate that, in this day and age, extremists can launch this kind of campaign with the sole intention of restricting access to legal abortion,” Clegg said.

The vigil also comes after Portland Planned Parenthood sued an anti-abortion protester earlier this month for yelling at a volume it said interfered with providing health care services to its patients.

Clegg said in an earlier interview that the majority of the services offered by Planned Parenthood are not abortions but rather birth control and testing.

Clegg said Tuesday that the organization seeks to protect First Amendment free speech rights, but she is concerned about certain rhetoric compelling people to violence.

“Using speech like ‘murderers’ and other language that can be inflammatory, there can be consequences,” Clegg said.

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