Speakers at a downtown Anchorage rally against Planned Parenthood Tuesday, including a state senator, exhorted a crowd of about 100 people to call on their legislators to defund the organization and bar it from Alaska schools.
The Park Strip rally was one of dozens against Planned Parenthood held nationwide Tuesday. The protests come after videos surreptitiously filmed by an anti-abortion group known as the Center for Medical Progress emerged that appear to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal tissue. A third video was released Thursday.
Planned Parenthood has said the videos are heavily edited and taken out of context and has forcefully denied it makes any profits from donations of fetal tissue.
At the rally, emceed by conservative local talk show host Bernadette Wilson, speakers quickly connected the national controversy over Planned Parenthood's practices with contentious Alaska issues like Medicaid expansion and Erin's Law, a national sexual abuse education initiative the Legislature passed a version of at the end of this year's session.
"The fight is here in Alaska," said Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Wasilla Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, towering over the crowd on a makeshift podium.
Dunleavy was the architect of a proposed overhaul of Erin's Law that would have barred Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers from classrooms around the state, a move he described as "safeguarding parental rights."
"That group is getting in between you and your child, getting in between your child and your values," he said.
The bill passed without Dunleavy's provisions attached, and he told the crowd it happened after he got "pushback" from lawmakers in both parties on the issue.
He said he still wants Planned Parenthood out of schools.
"I wouldn't mind getting them out of the state of Alaska," Dunleavy said.
Dunleavy read a statement on his phone he said was from the office of U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.
"He'll vote to defund Planned Parenthood," Dunleavy said, to applause from the crowd. A number of senators have called for the organization to be defunded in the wake of the video releases.
Many at the Anchorage rally said they were longtime anti-abortion activists. Others had never before attended a rally but were upset by the recently released videos.
Some, like siblings Madison, Jillian and Kelan Moody of Girdwood, said they're just getting started.
The Moody siblings, who are home-schooled, said they learned about the Planned Parenthood video controversy after attending a church leadership training.
Jillian Moody, 14, said she was sickened by the videos.
"It's a cause I can see myself really getting involved in," said Madison Moody, 17.