Every year, Planned Parenthood affiliates all over the country hold gala fundraisers and other events to promote their agenda.
Protesting these events can provide an ideal opportunity to expose the truth about the organization, earn media for the pro-life message, and frustrate the opposition.
To hold your own protest of a Planned Parenthood fundraiser or other event, follow the simple instructions below—and be sure to let us know about your plans!
- Finding Planned Parenthood events to protest in your area
- First, try to get Planned Parenthood’s event canceled
- Establishing a creative theme for your protest
- Preparing your signage and literature
- Recruiting participants for your protest
- Planning your protest: time, place, and other issues
- Working with police
- Reaching out to the media and earning coverage
- Documenting and sharing about your protest
- Preparing for your next protest
Finding Planned Parenthood events to protest in your area
In order to protest Planned Parenthood’s special events, you need to find out when these events are taking place. To do that, you need to know a little about how the organization is structured.
Planned Parenthood is divided into 59 separate regional affiliates, and each affiliate coordinates its own fundraising events. Additionally, these affiliates typically operate a political arm, and fundraisers are often held under that banner.
For example, in Illinois, where the Pro-Life Action League is headquartered, health centers are operated by Planned Parenthood of Illinois, while fundraisers are hosted by Planned Parenthood Illinois Action. These two arms work very closely together.
Find the websites for your Planned Parenthood affiliate, and monitor them regularly. Get on their email list. Often, the political arm has its own email list, so be sure to get on every email list you can. Visit the main Planned Parenthood site to get started with this.
Follow your Planned Parenthood affiliate on social media (again, both the affiliate and the political action group), and watch for upcoming events. This is often your best means of keeping tabs on upcoming events.
Most Planned Parenthood affiliates will hold one or two fundraisers each year, usually around the same time. So once you’ve learned about one of these, you can expect it to be held annually and mark your calendar for future protests.
Types of Planned Parenthood events: Planned Parenthood hosts or is involved with a variety of different types of events, from fundraisers to public speaking engagements:
- Major annual fundraiser (usually during spring or fall)
- Roe v. Wade anniversary celebration
- Trivia nights, movie nights, and other “fun” events
- Meet ups and training sessions for supporters
- Public speaking events by Planned Parenthood officials
- Events hosted by Planned Parenthood as part of a coalition
Typical venues: Planned Parenthood will host events at several different kinds of venues, including:
- Large hotels
- Trendy bars and clubs
- Tourist attractions
- Colleges and universities
- Community centers
Choosing which events to protest: Annual fundraisers and Roe v. Wade celebrations should be protested if at all possible. But not every event hosted by Planned Parenthood is suitable for a protest. Sometimes the location may make it difficult or impossible to be seen. For more intimate events like Meet-Ups, infiltrating the event may be better than protesting. Finally, take care not to overtax your volunteers with too-frequent protests.
First, try to get Planned Parenthood’s event canceled
Once you’ve learned about a nearby Planned Parenthood fundraiser, you may wish to contact the venue to encourage them to cancel the event. A personal letter may be more effective than an email or phone call, though you may wish to call or email to follow up if you receive no response to your letter.
In any communications with the venue, always adopt a civil, respectful tone. The owner or manager may not even be aware that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider, and that hosting the event embroils their business in the abortion controversy.
Be sure to emphasize that Planned Parenthood controls 35% of the national abortion market. Educated yourself about Planned Parenthood first, but be sure not to overwhelm the venue with too much information.
Encourage them to cancel the event, and make it clear that you will stage a protest if it goes forward.
You should know in advance that you’re unlikely to succeed in getting the event canceled, but your efforts could help to scuttle Planned Parenthood’s plans for future events at the venue.
If you are unable to get the Planned Parenthood even canceled, it’s time to put together your protest plans.
Establishing a creative theme for your protest
You’re more likely to draws media attention and get volunteers fired up if you have a meaningful, specific “theme” for each protest that you organize, rather than just a generic anti-Planned Parenthood message.
To find your “theme” of “hook,” consider such factors as the nature of the event, special guests, keynote speaker, the venue, and current issue in the news (whether directly related to abortion or not).
Some of the special themes the Pro-Life Action League has used in the past include:
- Abortion is nothing to celebrate: We debuted this message at a talk Cecile Richards gave in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at which we held a major regional protest with hundreds of participants and massive media coverage.
- There’s nothing trivial about abortion: Planned Parenthood holds an annual Trivia Night in Chicago, at which the League distributes our own flyer of “trivia” about their abortion business.
- Never get to wear pink shoes: When Wendy Davis spoke at a fundraiser in Dearborn, Michigan, the league affixed signs with this message to abortion victim posters, alluding to her famous “pink shoes” filibuster in Texas
- Senator Durbin: Come back to your pro-life roots: Senator Dick Durbin used to be pro-life, a fact raised by the League when he spoke at an annual Roe v. Wade anniversary celebration in Chicago.
- Cecile Richards: What about his future? After the 2016 election, Richards toured the country speaking on “the future of reproductive rights”; the League highlighted the fact that Planned Parenthood destroys unborn babies’ futures by attaching this slogan to abortion victim signs.
- CEO of Abortion Inc. Ahead: To link Planned Parenthood with abortion, we used this sign when Cecile Richards spoke at the annual Planned Parenthood of Illinois fundraiser.
- Cecile Richards: Abortion is always a BAD idea. This was our theme when Planned Parenthood’s then-president spoke at Chicago Ideas Week in 2015.
If you’re having trouble developing a theme for your protest, contact the Pro-Life Action League for help.
Preparing your signage and literature
A good protest will always feature effective signage. That’s why the Pro-Life Action League has put together a special “protest pack” of signs especially for protesting Planned Parenthood. A protest like this is also an ideal occasion for displaying large abortion victims photos.
In addition to “generic” pro-life, abortion and Planned Parenthood signs, you could make signs especially for this protest, perhaps drawing on the theme. The Pro-Life Action League often uses signs reading “Abortion is nothing to celebrate” at fundraiser protests.
For example, when U.S. Senator Dick Durbin spoke at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in our headquarters city of Chicago, the League made signs reading “Return to your pro-life roots, Senator Durbin!” highlighting the fact that Durbin used to be strongly pro-life. When Planned Parenthood CEO spoke at another Chicago fundraiser, we made signs reading, “AHEAD: President of Abortion Incorported”—a sign that worked for cars approaching the venue, that had already seen earlier signs about Planned Parenthood.
If you include special signs, have them professionally printed at a size of 24″x 18″ and mount them on coroplast or heavy-duty cardboard. Handmade signs are often very difficult to read. Use high-contrast colors (black on white it ideal), and keep your slogans as short as possible.
A protest like is also an ideal opportunity to pass out the League’s flyer, “Getting to Know Planned Parenthood,” which passersby may mistake for a piece of propaganda from them, making them more likely to take a copy if they’re pro-choice. You might also consider stuffing a quarter-sheet into these flyers with information especially relevant to your protest.
Recruiting participants for your protest
For a successful protest, you need to get the word out to the local pro-life community. See the Pro-Life Basic Training units on “Increase turnout by using good promotional tools” and “Promoting your pro-life event on Facebook” for information on promoting your protest through email, social media, church bulletins and other avenues.
Planning your protest: time, place, and other issues
Where to protest? Your first step is to find out where you can hold your protest at the event location. Visit the site yourself and check out the public sidewalks and any parkway between the sidewalk and the street. You can also use Google maps Street View feature to check out the scene.
Think about where you’ll want to post your signs, depending on how large a turnout you get. Consider visibility for passing cars, guests being dropped off, and foot traffic. Finally, figure out where your volunteers can park their cars.
When to protest? We recommend starting your protest 30 minutes before the Planned Parenthood event is set to begin so you’ll already be there as guests begin to arrive. Stay during the period that they’re arriving, which is typically 60-90 minutes. We recommend protesting for no more than 90 minutes; any longer tends to tax your volunteers and over time will diminish turnout.
We find we often have to “play it by ear” as to when to conclude a protest like this. Sometimes all of Planned Parenthood’s guests have arrived within an hour, and we wrap it up. When publicizing an protest like this, only share the start time.
Sign up sheets: Bring sign-up sheets to take down your volunteers’ contact information, so you can stay in touch about future pro-life events.
Working with police
You’re likely to be visited by local law enforcement during your protest, especially if the Planned Parenthood event is being held at an entertainment venue like a theater or restaurant. The management or patrons are likely to complain to police.
This is nothing to worry about. See the Pro-Life Basic Training unit “Working with police at your pro-life event” for helpful advice, including whether or not to inform the police about your protest plans in advance. This unit also addresses how to work with private security guards, whom you may also encounter during your protest.
Reaching out to the media and earning coverage
You can dramatically increase the impact of your protest if it gets covered by the local media. While this can be very challenging in large media market’s like the League’s headquarters city of Chicago, often media outlets in smaller markets will jump at the chance to cover something like this.
In your outreach to the media, draw on the theme you developed for your protest. Create a media list and distribute a press release using the guidelines in the Pro-Life Basic Training unit “Earning media coverage of your pro-life efforts.”
After your protest, follow up with all the media you initially contacted with a brief report, including 2-3 good photos. Outlets will often do a story after an event like this, if they are given the information they need.
Documenting and sharing about your protest
It is important to take photos and video of your pro-life event and share an account of what took place with the wider pro-life community. This can help you reach a broader audience with your message about Planned Parenthood, and may also inspire others to get involved and take action, too.
Ideally, you will assign a team member or volunteer to be in charge of taking photos and video. Post your best photos and social media like Facebook. For video, remember that the shorter the video, the more likely people are to watch it. One or two minutes is the ideal length for a video about a protest like this.
In addition, the story of your protest will become part of the larger story of pro-life activism in the United States. We pro-lifers own the grass roots on the abortion issue, and we should take every opportunity to demonstrate this to our opposition.
Be sure to let the Pro-Life Action League know all about your protest, including sending us 2-3 of your best photos.
Preparing for your next protest
Many of the events Planned Parenthood holds take place annually, so mark your calendar for next year! A month or two before an annual event is likely to take place, begin searching for details and planning your protest.