A combined pro-life effort has halted the proposed relocation and expansion of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The Pro-Life Coalition of East Tennessee (ProCET) joined together Tennessee Right to Life, the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville, several local Baptist churches and area crisis pregnancy centers.
In a video calling for opposition to the expansion, Bishop of Knoxville Richard F. Stika joined Dr. Doug Sager, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Concord.
Speaking in the video, Bishop Stika noted a local veterans’ cemetery where about 4,000 have been laid to rest.
“As I drive past that cemetery each day and I see the large number of headstones arranged row upon row, I am reminded that a new cemetery of approximately the same size, but without the headstones and decency of a proper burial, is created each year as a result of abortions in our Knoxville Community.”
On Wednesday, the ProCET website reported that Planned Parenthood would not be moving to the new facility.
“We give thanks and praise to God for His deliverance!” ProCET said. “Thanks to all who have put in time and effort by making phone calls, writing letters and getting the message out by word of mouth. Our voice was heard and we made a difference. Praise be to God!”
ProCET asked its members to recognize that the successful effort was only a “battle in the ongoing war.”
“Planned Parenthood will continue doing business in our community - less than half a mile from Bearden High School,” the group said, noting that Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee is considering other options.
The Center for Bioethical Reform (CBR) said in a press release that it worked independently of the coalition to show the consequences of the Planned Parenthood location, with pro-life advocates displaying abortion pictures on sidewalks, on the sides of trucks, and on airplane tow-banners near Planned Parenthood and in front of businesses CBR Southeast believed to be “enabl[ing] their killing programs.”
Explaining its actions, the CBR said “They are the same kinds of disturbing photos that have historically been used by social reformers to dramatize injustice and educate the public.”
CBR Southeast Director Fletcher Armstrong wrote to the landowner of the property, saying:
“If you collaborate with baby-killers, large numbers of protesters will express their outrage on the public sidewalks and on streets near the proposed facility. People of good conscience will organize a constant presence that will not go away in a few days, weeks, nor even months. The influence of disturbing abortion photos will discourage patronage of business throughout the Bearden Business District.”
CBR Executive Director Gregg Cunningham said that pro-life activists have been considered “toxic” and viewed with suspicion even by pro-life pastors.
“We have tried in vain to make ourselves more palatable. It is time we started using our toxicity to our own advantage. We need to let them know that if they support abortion, they get us; and they don't want us,” he said.
In related news, the Diocese of Knoxville has opened its fourth Pregnancy Help Center, citing an “unmet need” for them.
The new center is located in LaFollette, whose mayor had invited the center to occupy space in a former school building. Another center is in Chattanooga and two are in Knoxville.
“One of the significant things we do consistently throughout our area is provide services to people who are struggling with an unplanned pregnancy and people who are new parents who didn’t know they were going to be parents,” said Father Ragan Schriver, executive director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee.
“We feel the most important thing we can do is try to be there for people who are struggling, and that’s what we’re trying to do with this new center.”
The center will provide assistance to pregnant women and new mothers. Assistance includes baby and maternity clothes, diapers, formula, referrals to other community services, and a “listening ear.”