CHICAGO — Anti-abortion activists plan to protest outside Planned Parenthood clinics in the city on Feb. 11.
But instead of urging people to counter-protest, Planned Parenthood is asking its supporters to stay away and find other ways of helping the organization.
That's because protests and counter-protests might frighten or confuse patients who are trying to use the clinics that day, spokeswoman Julie Lynn said.
“Even though people may show up with good intentions, a patient doesn’t know whether they are friend or foe out there,” Lynn said.
Planned Parenthood supporters could instead spend the day rallying elsewhere and having people talking about their experience with Planned Parenthood, Lynn suggested, or they could contact their elected officials and talk about why the organization matters to them. Sharing those stories and experiences helps show what the group does, Lynn said.
Supporters can also host fundraisers or take part in events to get involved without counter-protesting, Lynn said. Some restaurants — like Hopleaf in Andersonville — have also been hosting fundraisers for Planned Parenthood.
The clinics themselves will focus on the safety of their patients and staff as the anti-abortion protests go on, Lynn said.
Trained escorts will move patients into the clinic "swiftly," Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Diana Arellano said. Those escorts will also try to distract the patients in case anti-choice protesters are yelling.
Volunteers on the sidewalk will quietly act "as a barricade" between the anti-choice people and the clinics and patients, Arellano said. They won't chant or cheer at the protesters but will be there to let patients know "we're with you," Arellano said.
“Nobody wants to go to any health appointment, whether it be to go to [Planned Parenthood] or to go to the dentist, and have people screaming outside about whatever you’re going in there for,” Lynn said. “It’s none of their business.”
And protesters can't get too close to clinics because Chicago has a "bubble zone" ordinance that keeps anti-abortion proponents from speaking to patients or protesting near clinics.
If Planned Parenthood supporters are still trying to figure out how to help after the Feb. 11 protests, they can go to IStandWithPP.org to learn about the organization, its funding and how they can get involved or support Planned Parenthood, Lynn said.
“Being informed about issues that you’re passionate about and then sharing that information with others is I think a great way to help organizations that I think people are passionate about,” Lynn said.