Pro-life protesters rally outside Women's Convention

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
A convention attendee lifted her shirt and yelled "Am I not a woman too?" to pro-life protesters outside of Cobo Hall on Saturday.

Detroit — About 30 pro-life protesters rallied on side streets outside Cobo Hall Saturday as attendees to the Women's Convention walked into the facility. 

Protesters held signs of graphic abortion images and chanted "abortion kills women, women deserve better" in opposition to the convention's pro-choice stance. 

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America in Washington D.C., led the chanting in front of Cobo's doors and said the protest was a continuation of similar protestis at the Women's March in D.C. in January.

"After the election and the Women's March was announced, we actually applied to be a co-sponsor of the march, the march then made a pro-abortion statement platform about a week before," Hawkins said. "We were there... and we are here now to let second-wave of feminists know they were lied to and told that abortion equals empowerment for women, but it's the opposite."

Other representatives like Lynn Mills from Pro-Life Michigan and Monica Miller of Citizens for Pro-Life Society said they "would have loved to be a part of the convention, but as long as they have a pro-choice stance, we can't."

Two women from St. Louis attending the convention said they were angered by the protesters  and they returned to their hotel to retrieve a pride, equality flag saying "resist."

Jennifer Kist and Martha Thompson of St. Louis attending the Women's Conventions stood against pro-life protesters Saturday.

Jennifer Kist and Martha Thompson stood alongside pro-life protesters and chanted "when women's rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back."

"We couldn't just walk by and not do anything. So, we ran back, got our resist flag and stood against them for an hour," Kist said. 

Another woman was also angered by the protesters, she lifted her shirt and yelled to the protesters, "Am I not a woman too?" She was then escorted by security back inside. 

Planned Parenthood Action Fund is featuring plenary sessions and workshops to empower attendees to organize for reproductive rights at the convention. The panels include, “Reclaiming Our Bodies & Our Time: Achieving Reproductive Freedom for All” and “Resistance Organizing in the Age of Trump.”

Democratic Michigan gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer is scheduled to speak  on the reclaiming our bodies panel  Saturday afternoon and said she is proud to be pro-choice and peacefully protesting is an inherent right of being an American. 

"Michigan women deserve every right guaranteed to us under the constitution," Whitmer said on Friday. "I think it’s a critical part of the fight that I’ve always brought to the legislature, seeking out protections for women in Michigan. I believe that’s what people want. It’s people who might be traditional democrats and might not be, but we are still a state that I think values that right for women to make their own choices.” 

Gretchen Whitmer, a Democratic Michigan gubernatorial candidate, poses for pictures with pro-choice supporters at the Women's Convention in Cobo Center Friday. Whitmer said she is "pro-choice and proud to be." She said pro-life supporters have a right to peacefully protest Saturday, but that the event is about organizing. "The event is about coalescing the energy across our country and within our borders here in Michigan to say, 'Michigan women deserve very guaranteed right to us under the constitution.'"

Mark Theobald of Woodhaven stood with JoAnn Scanland of Flat Rock outside Cobo Hall because "they hoped to protect the unborn."

"I'm an incrementalist, a pro-lifer," Theobald said. "We pray for the victims and parents who aren't guided. Women deserve to know there are other options."

Protesters stand outside of Cobo Hall as attendees walk in for the Women's Convention on Saturday.

Shawna Knipper, executive director of the Pennsylvania chapter of Women’s March, said there is a misunderstanding that the Women's March was about abortion rather than oppression of women and marginalized people. 

"So the focus on one issue, when that is really just a minor portion of what this conference is about — which is building power for women, not just as people, but politically and in our work lives and in our home lives — that is really small-minded and short-sighted," said Knipper. "It doesn’t speak to what we’re really about. We’re about empowering women to make their own choices in life."

Warning, the following content contains graphic images.

Staff Writer Stephanie Steinberg contributed.