In response to recent confrontations by a Pennsylvania lawmaker with pro-life witnesses near a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia, the region’s pro-life advocates are planning a public demonstration at the site on Friday morning.
The “Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying” will take place Friday, May 10 at 11 a.m. in front of the Planned Parenthood facility at 1144 Locust Street in center city. The national group Live Action is sponsoring what it is calling a “peaceful rally” that will feature prominent pro-lifers Abby Johnson, subject of the movie “Unplanned,” Eric Scheidler of Pro-Life Action League and other speakers.
The rally comes at the end of a week in which videos recorded last month and posted on social media by state Rep. Brian Sims, representing the center city district where the clinic is located, were posted on Twitter by Live Action on May 6 and 7.
In one seven-minute video Sims berates a middle-aged woman carrying a rosary as she silently protests abortion on public space near the facility’s entrance.
A second video shows Sims in a brief interaction with several women, three of whom appear to be teenagers. He is heard offering $100 for anyone who would publicly identify the young women. One of the women tells Sims, “We’re actually here just praying for the babies.”
In both videos Sims solicits donations for Planned Parenthood.
Condemnation of the Democratic lawmaker has swelled from state and national Republican leaders and conservative observers. Sims issued a video response May 7 without offering an apology, while Planned Parenthood did not condone his actions to confront protestors.
In a statement issued by the Philadelphia Archdiocese May 8, Archbishop Charles Chaput condemned the videos that he said featured Sims “aggressively harassing young and elderly women who were peacefully praying” outside the clinic.
Sims’ actions “were unbecoming of an elected official,” the archbishop said. “There is much bitter irony that he claims to be a champion for the rights of all women yet he trampled on the rights of others and disgracefully shamed them in public. It was particularly disdainful that he offered a bounty for the identity and home addresses of three young ladies in order to encourage protests at their homes.
“Our country is one founded on democratic principles and civil discourse in the public square,” he continued. “Our elected officials represent all of their constituents — not just the ones with whom they agree. Representative Sims spoke often of shame and there was plenty of that to be found in his actions, which demonstrated a complete disregard for civility and basic human decency.”
Archbishop Chaput called on “all people of good will” to attend Friday’s 11 a.m. rally “to channel their indignation into right action and prayerful witness.”
“I’m encouraging broad participation in this peaceful initiative,” he said. “Let us meet the hateful actions of Representative Sims with the love of Christ and let us fervently pray for respect for life from conception to natural death.”
The head of Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, the region’s largest pro-life advocacy organization, called Sims’ videos “disturbing for the public to view,” said Tom Stevens, president and CEO. “The fact this elected official had the audacity to harass people for simply exercising their First Amendment rights is outrageous and unacceptable.”
Stevens said in response to Sims’ offer of money to identify the young women, the father of two of them challenged people to contribute toward the pro-life movement. In a day that challenge has raised about $10,000 for the Pro-Life Union, according to Stevens.
“Looking to the present and future, we hope and pray that each member of society treats all individuals with compassion and respect, and recognizes the dignity of all living persons, inside and outside the womb,” he said.
Live Action described Friday’s planned rally as “a peaceful, winsome demonstration of brotherly love to sidewalk counselors, women and Rep. Brian Sims. We hope more lives are saved. Changed minds save lives.”
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