Planned Parenthood supporters from Manatee, around state rally at RNC

Herald Staff WritersAugust 29, 2012 

TAMPA -- Nearly 100 protesters filled two buses in Sarasota County Wednesday morning to attend the Planned Parenthood rally at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in Tampa.

Those protesters joined hundreds of others, mostly donning pink T-shirts, for the 2 p.m. rally themed "Women are Watching."

Planned Parenthood organizations have been rallying across the country, said Barbara Zdravecky, CEO and president of the southwest and central Florida division.

Zdravecky, who lives in Manatee County, said the Republican National Convention being held in Tampa presented an opportunity for the bipartisan group to voice their concerns. About eight buses from around the state carried activists to the

park.

"We feel women's health care should not be a political issue," Zdravecky said.

Joan Froede, from Manatee County, said she would have driven to the rally, but enjoyed riding with other supporters from Sarasota.

"I'm very supportive of Planned Parenthood and I think these rallies are subtle, but if we weren't here it would be nothing," Froede said. "Being here shows we are something to be reckoned with.

"Even the flowers support our position," said Froede, pointing to the pink flowers blooming in a nearby tree.

Froede rode on the bus next to Sarasota's Verna Safran.

"I think the Republicans have it all wrong about Planned Parenthood. Abortion is only 3 percent of what they do," Safran said. "My wonderful son is the result of their fertility clinic. A family decides when to have a kid or how many to have. It's none of the government's business."

Safran said she believes the controversy is religious instead of political.

"I want Republicans to keep their laws off my body," said Marge Simonson, also from Sarasota. She noted that Planned Parenthood provides breast screening services, reproductive services and health exams.

Jane Blanchard, former president of Sarasota-Manatee chapter of the National Organization for Women, said the "free of charge" rally was a great opportunity for people, mostly women, fighting for the same cause.

"Women are watching and I think we all need to watch out for ourselves, our children and our parents," Blanchard said.

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