Group’s protests draw mixed reactions

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St. Thomas’ Knights of Columbus have a tradition of praying in front of Planned Parenthood every Friday.

The group meets at 3:15 p.m. in the lobby of St. John Vianney Seminary and then car pools to the business on Ford Parkway in Highland Park.

Junior Sean Grismer said the group consists mostly of seminarians, but it welcomes everybody and has seen an increase in non-seminarians so far this school year.

While praying outside the business, Grismer said the group never goes unnoticed.

“When cars drive by, some will honk their horn to either show support, or to show that they’re against us,” Grismer said. “The ones who hold down their horn, it’s usually anger, but if they only beep their horn a couple of times, usually you can tell they’re supporting us.”

Kathi Di Nicola, Planned Parenthood’s director of media relations, said the group of St. Thomas students is very peaceful and respectful, but still puts a lot of pressure on patients.

“It’s hard on our patients who are seeking reproductive health care to have to run the gauntlet of protesters,” Di Nicola said. “It can add another layer of stress on a visit that’s already emotionally charged.”

Grismer said more intense protestors picket in front of Planned Parenthood on Saturdays when it performs abortions. But he said the group of St. Thomas students expresses their concern in a different way.

“Our world is filled with so much noise as it is,” Grismer said. “We’re trying to show them that we’re not angry with them, that we love them and there are other ways even in the hardest times.”

Michael Ewen can be reached at

37 Replies to “Group’s protests draw mixed reactions”

  1. You are all such a beautiful witness to the love of Christ for the world and a living witness to the sacredness of all life from conception until natural death. May God bless you all! My prayers are with you.

  2. I think there are other ways besides trying to guilt and shame those who enter a medical building into changing their beliefs, how terrible to intimidate someone at their most vulnerable.

  3. “I think there are other ways besides trying to guilt and shame those who enter a medical building into changing their beliefs, how terrible to intimidate someone at their most vulnerable.”

    So a group of young people praying the rosary is intimidating?

  4. Although I am pro-choice, and undecided on the morality of abortion, I’m glad that these students are attempting to go about this in a peaceful way. However, I find it hard to believe that Mr. Grismer is not upset with these patients. If he equates abortion with murder, why wouldn’t he be angry with the “murderers?” I certainly would be upset with someone who murders somebody outside the womb.

    And, regardless of their intentions, this is a form of intimidation, even if it is done as passive aggressively as I believe it is being carried out.

    As I said before, I am undecided on the issue, so I would be happy to hear feedback.

  5. “However, I find it hard to believe that Mr. Grismer is not upset with these patients. If he equates abortion with murder, why wouldn’t he be angry with the “murderers?” I certainly would be upset with someone who murders somebody outside the womb.”

    I’m not Mr. Grismer, but I, like him, am not angry with women who commit abortions. Although I believe abortion is murder, Christ said to love your enemies, and pray for those who hate you. And, although we can judge actions that people perform as moral or immoral, we cannot judge the state of someone’s soul. That’s God’s domain and solely His. We are to love the sinner and hate the sin.
    So, although I am deeply saddened when a woman decides to have her unborn child murdered, I look past that to the beautiful children of God that these women are, and, rather than condemning them, I pray for them, and, if I had the opportunity to do so, I would reach out to them and seek to bring Christ’s love to them through my witness. These women are just as human as I am, and they need Christ’s love just as much as I do. So, although I think that abortion is insidiously evil, I feel that it’s more important to change hearts than to change minds, and so I would seek to bring healing, peace, and love to these women, because…

  6. These women are just as human as I am, and they need Christ’s love just as much as I do. So, although I think that abortion is insidiously evil, I feel that it’s more important to change hearts than to change minds, and so I would seek to bring healing, peace, and love to these women, because abortion hurts them too. They’re just as much victims of abortion as their murdered unborn children.

  7. I hope that someday all people who protest abortion will act as respectfully as you would. As far as your religious argument, I will not go into it because A) I am an atheist and B) it would be an unnecessary diversion from the subject matter. Also, laziness.

  8. This group of students is choosing to take a stand. So often, we sit back and complain about what is going on in the world. As Archbishop Chaput would say, “If you do not like the world in which you live, get involved and change it.” What a gift, as Americans, we have that we can protest peacefully and legally. I admire the strength of any protestor to stand his or her ground and not fall under the judgments of others.

  9. I am genuinely grateful for the civility shown thus far and would like to thank those that commented before me. 

    In regards to the article, I agree with Mr. Ferriss. This is definitely a form of intimidation, and as much one may not want to acknowledge it, it is the truth. Acknowledging that the Bible expects one to pray for everyone, I do not understand the rationale of doing so in front of these people, if not to intimidate them. I will assume no one at Planned Parenthood (the administrator or clients) asked for this, and is thus given against their will. 

    Regardless, as Ms. Motz stated the choice to protest peacefully is a legal gift of this country. In the same vein, so is the right to choose to have an abortion. Even if you do not agree with what someone is doing, publicly shaming them is not the greatest solution to express your opinion. Asserting that the love of the sinner is unconditional, it would seem to me that it would be more prudent to attack the “sin.” Seek to change the law, but it seems artificial to go about things this way. 

    While I am not trying to ethically justify abortion, I know that I would not be able to make their choice and them doing so indicates a needed for genuine affection and not my sympathies. I do wish both sides reach…

  10. Regardless of the intentions, this is a perfect example of a group of individuals who wish to say “hello…I’m better than you, you are wrong and I am right”. I am all for the love and prayers that are directed towards individuals who make the hardest choice of their life. However, you need not stand in front of a building in large numbers to pray for something. There are several amazing locations across the Twin Cities that are intended for prayer… Churches. The only thing that is gained from this expression of moral opinion is the fact that individuals going through a terribly emotional time in their lives are shamed, and made to feel as if they are terrible people. This neither helps solve the problem, nor advances the efforts to spread love and support in our community. Love your enemy by helping them, not by embarrassing them on what is most likely the toughest day of their life.

  11. I think if that were true, no one would be pro-choice. Saying you think it’s impossible to successfully defend, is different than saying it’s impossible to defend.

  12. After my time at St. Thomas, I have a bit of mixed feelings about this. Not about abortion, which I am wholly against but the way that prayer and/or protests happen in front of the clinics. Anytime that I myself have been involved in these activities it was always accompanied by what is known as sidewalk counceling. In that process we would vigilantly pray in front of that very same Planned Parenthood down in Highland Park, but as people approached we would attempt to give them literature and ask that they reconsider their decision and try to make some sort of connection with them and even for a second let them know that we cared about their well being and that of their unborn child. I feel that without that, even the best of intentions of the seminarians can come off as judging. More prolifers need to jump on the sidewalk counseling bandwagon, it not only is proactive but it makes the intentions of the group clearer and that might make a world of difference. Remember, it’s Ora et Labora, work and prayer, it’s like the joke about the guy in the flood who keeps refusing help from boats saying that “God will provide” and ultimately drowning and when he gets to God in heaven and asks why God didn’t help him, God asks “didn’t you get those boats I sent”. Be the boats…

  13. Dan, I agree with you. I strongly support sidewalk counseling as well, and hope to get involved with it at some point. However, I still think what this group of fellow Tommies are doing is commendable, and might even save some lives. If sidewalk counseling were part of the picture it’d be even better, but this is a great first step!

  14. This is really too bad..
    “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6)

    When will they learn?
    If you get a chance,

  15. I would encourage all individuals to educate themselves about the positive work Planned Parenthood does in our community, before condemning the entire organization so quickly.

    If you believe pregnancy termination and contraception distribution is all that Planned Parenthood does, you are sorely mistaken. And your ignorance is nothing short of offensive.

    What about a woman’s right to reproductive health? What is infuriating to me about this isn’t individuals standing up for their beliefs. If that is done in a peaceful, respectful way, I’ll support it. I do not, however, support the promotion of ignorance of the services Planned Parenthood provides far more frequently than pregnancy termination.

    Planned Parenthood diagnoses breast and cervical cancer regularly. They provide support and resources to women who have suffered from abuse of various kinds. They provide education consistently and thoughtfully.

    Especially in a time where so many people in our community and our world have to fight to get their basic health care needs met, Planned Parenthood offers basic female reproductive health services to any individual who walks through their door.

    If we’re advocating for the respect of human life, perhaps we should consider the individuals we see every day…

  16. I have to agree with Emily here. Planned Parenthood and so many other free clinics offer so many more services besides abortion. The offer women who can’t afford or who don’t feel comfortable visiting a family doctor a chance to get basic reproductive care, including yearly exams to check for things like cervical cancer, uterine cancer, etc. Women can also get education about how to protect themselves from getting STIs or prevent unplanned pregnancy should they choose to be sexually active. Planned Parenthood can help prevent several women from getting pregnant in the first place, thus reducing the number of women that could potentially consider an abortion. Planned Parenthood can also offer services for men who want to get educated, or receive certain exams as well.

    Would you go protest outside of a family doctors office where they provide the same services? Or how about hospitals like HCMC or Regions, or any of the other several around the area that provide these services? Places like Planned Parenthood seem to have some sort of bad reputation that they have not earned, and it’s really sad to see. People who go into Planned Parenthood do so because they are trying to take charge of their own health, and we should not make them feel bad about this.

  17. It may be the case that Planned Parenthood provides, besides performing abortions and distributing contraceptives, but the fact of the matter is they are deliberately destroying the lives of innocent children and providing couples with contraceptives that profane the sexual act by interfering with both its unitive and procreative ends. Both of these actions are grave violations of the moral law and even if Planned Parenthood does some good things, that doesn’t change the fact that Planned Parenthood is causing great evil, both in Minnesota and throughout the world, and they will have to answer to God for what they have done if they don’t change their ways and make amends for the evil they have caused in the world.

  18. This is a very hot topic apparantly….I have to say that in terms of the “protest”, I dont see anything wrong with what they did. Some may call it intimidation, but that calls for the question of whether it is intimidating because people were intimidate or because the act was meant to be intimidating? I believe the former is true. I believe the actions were sincere, and genuine. I guess I would be “Pro-Choice” (even though I really dont have a choice) so I would find protesting this issue frivolous if I was partaking in it, I do not find what they did to be negative for them or others.

  19. Michael, these are grave violations of YOUR moral law. A moral law shared by many, but certainly not by all. I admire your passion and the strong justifications you provide for your beliefs. Please acknowledge that this same God you describe so gracefully would be thankful for organizations that protect the human life we see walking around every single day, even if he/she condemns another practice provided by the same institution. My comment didn’t address the morality of sex, contraception, or abortion. It was about a value for human life. This God you acknowledge would want a woman who was sexually abused by a family member to have resources for her physical and emotional health. Planned Parenthood provides that. I challenge you be thankful for services such as these, which are a true blessing, REGARDLESS of your moral position. In the end, we actually agree. We both value human life. Extend your passionate value of human life to include the women who sit next to you in class.

  20. “…and even if Planned Parenthood does some good things..”

    It’s more than SOME good things, Michael. You aren’t a woman. Therefore you can’t understand the challenges many women face in regards to their reproductive health needs. I am not a man. I can’t understand the challenges many men face in regards to their own reproductive health. But I can respect them. I urge you to do the same.

  21. Ms. Ross, I disagree that abortion and contraception are issues only relevant to women, and my mother and sisters would disagree with you on that point as well. I think contraception has actually hurt women more than it has helped them. Men who otherwise would have avoided having sex with women outside of marriage due to the risk of impregnating them can now seduce and take advantage of women without that worry. And, if by chance the woman he takes advantage of does get pregnant, he can pressure her to have an abortion and not worry about taking responsibility for his actions. It’s a sad thing, but that’s what has happened over the past forty years or so.
    Also, you didn’t know this about me, but my youngest sister was born dead at 22 weeks gestation, as the result of a congenital birth defect. When I saw her perfectly formed little body, and grieved her death, I thought about all the children, just like her, whose lives are destroyed each day by abortion. I had been pro-life before that, but I saw abortion for what it was that day. These unborn children are just as human as you or I, yet our society doesn’t understand that. I’m not angry with the women who have abortion, I don’t think most know what they’re doing. Planned Parenthood, however, I hold culpable.

  22. Also, those services you mentioned that are good that Planned Parenthood provides, are also provided by crisis pregnancy centers and battered women’s shelters, both of which I fully support.
    Also, the moral law that I cited is the Natural Law, articulated by St. Thomas Aquinas, which lays out what is good and what is bad for all of humanity, based on man’s natural inclinations. Aquinas held, as do I, that the Natural Law, by virtue of God’s design, that the Natural Law is universally binding on all of humanity. Among other things, the Natural Law calls for protection of all human life, and that mandate is morally binding on all human beings.

  23. Michael, I really don’t think it’s fair to say that contraception has hurt women in the way you described. If men take advantage of women, then it’s those men that hurt women. Perhaps contraception creates conditions that make that behavior more likely (and I’m not necessarily saying it does), but it remains just that: a condition. Not a cause. If you say that this sort of behavior can even in part be blamed on contraceptive use, then it removes responsibility from the men who sexually assault women.

    With respect to natural law, I don’t think Emily was saying that you don’t believe it applies to all humanity, but rather that not all of humanity believes it to be true. As a side note, Aquinas believed that abortion was permissible before human ensoulment occurred. He thought that the matter that ultimately becomes the fetus went through stages of development, and didn’t get a human soul until after 40 days if it was male and 80 days if it was female.

  24. Your responses confuse me, Michael, because they relate minimally to the subject matter I am articulating.

    I never stated that because you were a man that contraception and abortion are not relevant issues to men. I stated that as a man, you can’t understand the implications of maintaining a woman’s reproductive health regimen. The flip side of that applies to me, as a woman.

    That’s science, not opinion.

    Once again, I’m not attempting to comment on abortion, contraception, or sex. Whatsoever. I’m talking about the need for services to promote social justice. Period.

    My field of study and profession afford me the opportunity to work with women seeking the services that Planned Parenthood, and similar organizations, offer. As someone who has worked in the community to find affordable, relevant services for women who face these issues, I’m letting you know that Planned Parenthood has provided incredible advocacy, education, and health care for women in our community and our country.

    This has nothing to do with abortion or contraception. Whatsoever. I’m asking you to acknowledge the good works of Planned Parenthood–works that cannot be denied. If you choose not to see that, it’s a personal choice. But a choice not based on reality.

  25. And finally, for someone who so gracefully articulates his moral and religious beliefs, I am disappointed that you fail to acknowledge the diversity of thought which is admired and encouraged by the God you respect so deeply.

    Some of the most spiritual and religious individuals I know, who also hold very strong opinions on various issues based on their religious context, embrace and encourage a diversity of thought.

    Your comments suggest that you do not.

    Whether it be the God you worship or St. Thomas Aquinas– the moral laws conveyed by these figures have a selective following. Look outside of your own context. Expand your cultural competency. God gave us diversity. Embrace it. There is no single “right way”.

    I so deeply admire your convictions and the extent to which you pursue them. I do not admire the way to express them to others all too frequently.

    Again, in the end we both value human life. You’re speaking about contraception and abortion. I’m talking about social justice and the availability of services in our community. I’m sharing my experience of working directly with various services. Not religion. Not morality. Period.

  26. Ms. Ross, although I respect the thoughts and opinions of others, and seek to understand them as best I can, I hold that the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church alone, possesses the Fullness of Truth, which was entrusted to her by Jesus Christ. Other religions and Christian communities may possess rays of that Truth, but the Catholic Church and her alone possesses that Truth in its entirety.
    You talk about social justice, and that is something I care about as well. However, the foundation of social justice is protection of all human life, from conception until natural death, and protection of and strengthening of the family. Pope Benedict XVI states in his inaugural homily that “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” All human life is sacred, no matter at what stage, because man is created in the image and likeness of God, and all human beings are precious in His sight. That includes human embryos, unborn children, the elderly, the disabled, the poor, all members of the human race. If we as a society lose sight of that, human life will be seen as valuable only insofar as it is fiscally contributive to society. If that happens, it will be a very sad day in the history of humanity.

  27. Thanks Michael- do you know where Aquinas talks about it himself? I looked last night and couldn’t find it.

  28. Ms. Pogin, the article from Franciscan University I mentioned talks about where Aquinas talks about it in the Summa Theologica. Hope that helps!

  29. Michael- I couldn’t find any clear reference in that article to what Aquinas says specfically against abortion- and the authors are arguing that if Aquinas had our modern knowledge of biology, he would have thought ensoulment occured earlier… I didn’t see anything about Aquinas saying abortion was always wrong (just the statement from the Church that they thought it was always wrong).

  30. Michael, thanks for your all excellent comments. Dan, as a sidewalk counselor myself for almost 30 years with Pro-Life Action Ministries, I appreciate your encouragement for people to become sidewalk counselors and be the “boats” sent by God to help the women entering Planned Parenthood. Sidewalk counseling has saved thousands upon thousands of lives around the world and has spared the consciences of thousands upon thousands of women and men. When these babies are born, their families are so grateful to the pro-lifers outside the abortion centers that they sometimes send us photos of their children or stop by to show us their babies. It’s definitely the most effective to have BOTH prayer and sidewalk counseling outside abortion centers, but merely the sight and/or sound of people praying has saved lives too. (I just read another account of a woman who changed her mind and left an abortion center after hearing the prayers and hymns outside.) The people praying also provide a strong witness to the humanity of the unborn child. We must not forget the other human being present when a pregnant woman enters an abortion center. Even if that individual is killed, it is significant that someone was there to plead for his or her life. No one should die alone and unloved.

  31. I always kind of find it funny how religious arguments are completely useless if the person you’re arguing with doesn’t share your beliefs… Without bible quotes to back them up, they fall on their faces… I mean no disrespect to those who surely disagree with me, but just realize that saying something along the lines of “the bible says abortion is a sin” means nothing to an atheist. 

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