Over one thousand pro-life activists rallied outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic on Friday, in reaction to a Democratic state lawmaker who taunted an elderly woman praying a Rosary last week, and threatened to doxx a group of teenage girls who prayed in front of that same clinic last month on Holy Thursday.
CBS reporting over 1,000 people attended the rally. Way more than I expected, honestly. I would have been happy with 100. This is remarkable. pic.twitter.com/VqOeRheLef
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) May 10, 2019
“We are here because we’re standing up for life,” said Live Action president Lila Rose. “Because we believe in the dignity and the right to life for every human being, because we love and respect every human life and because the pro-life community will not back down to any harassment or bullying or hate!”
Rose added: “We will not back down. We will stand up and we will stand up with love, and we will stand up because we know that we believe in the beauty and the dignity of every life!”
The activists said they were only “emboldened” by Rep. Brian Sims’ harassing behavior after he proudly posted videos of himself berating praying pro-lifers on social media. In the videos, Sims can be heard calling the women “disgusting,” “racist,” and “grotesque.” He repeatedly called their prayerful activity “shameful,” and beckoned his followers to donate to Planned Parenthood. At one point in the video he posted last month, he told viewers that he would be willing to give $100 to anyone who could identify the teenage girls [two sisters and a friend–one aged 13 and and the others both 15 years old].
— Faithwire (@faithwirenews) May 10, 2019
"Today's rally shows the strength of the pro-life movement. We will not back down to violence, bullying, and intimidation." @LilaGraceRose
— Live Action (@LiveAction) May 10, 2019
The mother of two of the girls, Ashley Garecht, 41, set up a GoFundMe page in reaction to Sims’ solicitations for Planned Parenthood, according to Philly.com. During the rally, she announced that she and her husband had raised more than $116,000 for the Pro-Life Union of Philadelphia.
“Even in the midst of all of the challenges, the challenges we had that day and certainly the firestorm of this week, I want you to know that I am so grateful,” Garecht told the crowd. “I am so grateful because we are here today to witness the tangible proof of incredible effort.”
Pro-life rally in Philadelphia draws 1,000 to protest confrontational videos https://t.co/NSm0GYv4sr
— CatholicPhilly (@CatholicPhilly) May 10, 2019
Soon after the videos went viral, Rose of Live Action and others started organizing Friday’s rally. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput encouraged attendance, issuing a statement Wednesday “calling on all people of good will to channel their indignation into right action and prayerful witness.”
The hundreds gathered stretched across half a block, with protesters holding signs that read “Pray to End Abortion,” “I regret my abortion,” “Mary Chose Life,” and “#ResignBrianSims,” among others. At various points during the more than hour-long rally, the protesters broke into chants of “Pro-Life! Pro-Love!” and “Let them live!”
Earlier this week, Sims admitted that he had been “aggressive” in the filmed encounters and vowed to “do better for the women of Pennsylvania.”
Police and Planned Parenthood escorts wearing yellow and pink vests stood along the gate to the clinic, trying to ensure there was sidewalk access for potential patients.
Speakers decried Sims’ behavior in the videos, and some booed his name. But organizers also said they loved Sims and wished him peace.
Dr. Monique Ruberu, a Philadelphia obstetrician-gynecologist and leader of antiabortion group Sidewalk Servants, told the crowd “we are here to love” — moms, babies, and “even those who persecute us.”
She said she prays Sims “finds true healing and true peace.”
Garecht said in an interview that “God loves [Sims] more than he can imagine” and that she had already forgiven him. She noted, however, that Sims had “made some terrible mistakes.”
“He’s an adult male and he should know better, but especially as an elected official, he knows that in this city of all places, we have the right to peacefully express our faith and we have the freedom of speech as protected by our constitution,” Garecht said.
Earlier this week, Sims admitted that he had been “aggressive” in the filmed encounters and vowed to “do better for the women of Pennsylvania.” Sims, who lives near the clinic, couldn’t be reached Friday afternoon, according to Philly.com.
PJ Media’s Stephen Kruiser couldn’t help but notice the marked difference in how activists on both sides approached the issue.
Speaker after speaker not only prayed for the safety of the unborn, but for Sims as well. True, some did call for his resignation, but even Planned Parenthood halfheartedly agreed that his behavior was unacceptable.
The grace & decency of the speakers at the @LiveAction rally is so different from the borderline criminal tactics of @BrianSimsPA & the lies of the hysterical Handmaid's Tale costume crowd. #ProLifePhilly
— SFK (@stephenkruiser) May 10, 2019
Here is Live Action’s video of the rally:
(Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)