SARASOTA -- The president of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida is asking supporters to help centers in Sarasota, Tampa and Orlando counter a national protest organized by four anti-abortion groups.
"This Saturday, anti-abortion extremists are planning to rally outside of our health centers in Sarasota, Tampa and Orlando," Barbara Zdravecky emailed Thursday.
Zdravecky's email urges supporters to come to Planned Parenthood Sarasota Health Center, 736 Central Ave., Sarasota, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
The four groups who collaborated on the one-day national protest -- Created Equal, the Pro-Life Action League, 40 Days for Life, and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society -- are calling it "Protest Planned Parenthood," or Protest PP for short, said John Jansen of the Pro Life Action League, which is based in Chicago.
Protest PP will be held in 310 cities across the nation, Jansen said. Tens of thousands of protesters are expected nationwide, he added.
Jansen said leaders in every city will decide what form the protest will take. Some protestors will simply hold up signs in silence.
"Many of these people have never done this before," Jansen said.
Since the release in July of several videos made by anti-abortion groups, which showed Planned Parenthood employees talking about fetal tissue donation, Planned Parenthood has been under attack.
Some abortion opponents accuse Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue.
On May 29, Gov. Rick Scott said he would call on Elizabeth Dudek, the Agency for Health Care Administration secretary, to check 16 Planned Parenthood offices in Florida to make sure they are following all legal abortion guidelines.
On Aug. 3, Planned Parenthood survived a procedural vote in the Senate on legislation to cut off federal funding.
"Absolutely, the videos are a game-changer," Jansen said. "They have awakened a lot of people who haven't paid attention."
Bradenton's Ann Jerman, a fervent supporter of Planned Parenthood, said she made up her mind to have an abortion in the 1960s and had to go to a hospital in Puerto Rico.
"My physician's hands were tied because it was not legal here and he told me I had to fly to San Juan," Jerman said. "I don't want anyone else to go through what I went through. The whole thing was a nightmare."
Planned Parenthood officials have said the organization does not profit from tissue donation.
"You've seen the recent attacks by anti-abortion extremists," Zdravecky's email stated. "They are determined to defund Planned Parenthood and cut off health care for 2.7 million women, men and young people. Now they're taking their extreme message and tactics to our patients. We need you to stand with us against these attacks. Please give us whatever time you can, and remember to wear pink."
Zdravecky added the goal is "to provide a secure, calm environment in order to ensure that our patients feel safe."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or via Twitter@RichardDymond.