SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, joined Planned Parenthood protesters who gathered at the state Capitol on Wednesday to ask lawmakers to defund the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.
"I'm here today to add my voice to yours and speak out on the sanctity of life," Herbert told the approximately 300 attendees in the rotunda.
The governor's speech came five days after he instructed the Utah Department of Health and other state agencies to stop disbursing federal funds to the association, a move that took state lawmakers and Planned Parenthood officials by surprise.
In her forceful speech, Love said abortion was "not a right or left issue for me. This is a right or wrong issue."
"It is Congress' job to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — first and foremost life," she said.
Sens. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, and Curt Bramble, R-Provo, and Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, also spoke at the event.
The release of multiple secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials bargaining over the price of fetal tissue have set off nationwide protests against the reproductive health organization.
A previous protest in Salt Lake City took place in front of the association's offices on July 28 and drew approximately 100 people.
Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said she was "not appreciative" of the politicians' presence at the rally Wednesday.
(Abortion is) not a right or left issue for me. This is a right or wrong issue. It is Congress' job to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — first and foremost life.
–Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah
"It's a very political issue to them," Galloway said. "To me, it's a health issue."
The association is focused on continuing to provide services to women and is "exploring lots of options" to get the funds another way, she said.
Protester Priscilla Nielsen, 22, said she decided to bring her siblings and two cousins to the rally at the Capitol after watching the videos.
Her sister Karen Nielsen, 15, said she "felt like crying" after watching the videos.
"It was the casual way they just poked and prodded the different pieces of the baby," she said.
Tina Escobar-Taft, a Salt Lake City mom and EMT, was one of the few Planned Parenthood supporters at the rally. On her bright pink sign, she explained that Planned Parenthood helped her avoid becoming a teen mom.
"My take is if you're pro-life, you should be pro-Planned Parenthood," Escobar-Taft said.
Galloway said the Planned Parenthood Action Council of Utah, the political arm of the reproductive organization, will hold its own rally on the south steps of the Capitol on Aug. 25 to protest the governor's move.
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