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People at the Defend Planned Parenthood rally in Encinitas march up the street from Moonlight Beach. Photo by Pat Cubel
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‘Defend Planned Parenthood’ rally draws thousands to Encinitas

ENCINITAS — Roughly 2,000 protesters attended a rally on Saturday at Moonlight Beach to show solidarity with Planned Parenthood.

The rally, which was organized by a group of high school seniors at Pacific Ridge in Carlsbad, said they were inspired to create the event to show solidarity with the nonprofit healthcare organization.

“Defunding Planned Parenthood would be catastrophic for women,” said Elana Scott, one the rally organizers. “It would deny them access to the birth control, cancer screenings and aid, STD tests, sex education, abortions, and countless other things that they need.”

Scott made the argument that the current healthcare system also wouldn’t be able to handle the increase in demand should Planned Parenthood lose its federal funding.

“The people that would lose care would be the people who need it the most, men and women of low socioeconomic status,” she said.

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear spoke to the gathered crowds at the march.

“Women, 100 years ago, had to fight and fight and fight to vote,” she told the crowd. “Forty years ago, women had to fight and fight and fight to have reproductive freedom and the right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy or to have to take it all the way to the end. So what are we going to do today? Are we going to fight and fight and fight?”

Sophia Stremel, who also helped to organize the rally, said it was an honor to have Blakespear attend the march.

“Having local officials participate in public acts of democracy is very valuable at this time, and it is truly a sign of a legislator who has…her constituents in mind. Next time, we’ll have to convince Mr. (Darrell) Issa to join in, too!” said Stremel.

Jenny Woudenberg, a Planned Parenthood patient, spoke out in support of the healthcare provider, telling her story of fighting and surviving cervical cancer.

“Planned Parenthood discovered I had cervical cancer and because of early detection, they easily treated me,” Woudenberg said. “Afterwards, I needed four cancer screenings to ensure that the cancer cells had not grown back. My health insurance informed me only one cancer screening would be covered, when I needed four. Any more (screenings) would be considered a luxury. That is not a luxury,” she added. “A fine bottle of wine is a luxury.”

Woudenberg explained Planned Parenthood was there to provide the cancer screenings that she needed. “Even when my health insurance could not provide me, Planned Parenthood was there for me. Therefore I will always stand with Planned Parenthood.”

Throughout the march, which went up to B Street, along South Coast Highway and ended back at Moonlight Beach, protesters chanted, “My body my choice,” and “This is what democracy looks like.”

“I hope that people take the energy from this march and continue to use it to protest the things they believe in,” Scott said. “I also hope that the march makes an impact on our representatives, and that they remember it when making decisions.”

Pro-life activists held a sign along the cliffs of Moonlight Beach that said, “Babies are murdered here.”

Scott said opposition to organizations like Planned Parenthood is often based around religious beliefs that, while valid, interfere with our country’s policy of separation of church and state. “The government is also responding to the influence of the people, many of who are not completely educated on exactly what Planned Parenthood does. I absolutely believe that pro-life people have the right to express their opinions, but I urge everyone to educate themselves on what Planned Parenthood does and the impact on women if it were to be defunded before choosing a side.”

A pro-life march was also held at the site of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Vista.