NEW ORLEANS -- A plan to open a new Planned Parenthood facility on Claiborne Avenue is sparking mixed reaction. On Monday night a group opposing the project held rally which also brought out supporters of the clinic.
"Who is all excited to be here standing for life!" said Abby Johnson to a large crowd armed with signs and strong pro-life beliefs. Dozens showed up to protest a new Planned Parenthood facility on Claiborne Avenue.
"We have to bring peace on the streets of New Orleans, and we have to make sure that there's peace in the womb of a woman," Archbishop Gregory Aymond said.
Planned Parenthood Gulfcoast says once built, its new facility will offer the same women's reproductive healthcare services it currently provides at its Magazine Street location, including access to birth control, STD/HIV testing and cancer screenings.
"Murder doesn't only occur in the streets. It occurs in facilities just like the one that's trying to be built here unless we stand," said Abraham Hamilton with Gideon Fellowship Church.
A group calling itself Nola Needs Peace made up of pro-life activists and churches says the new facility will focus primarily on abortion.
Abby Johnson is a former employee of Planned Parenthood Gulfcoast in Texas. The Louisiana native recently published a book exposing what she claims were abuses by the healthcare provider including fraud.
"If its really about helping women and it's really about reducing the number of abortions, then why in the world are they building a facility to perform abortions? That doesn't even make sense," said Johnson.
"Support womens health! Support womens health!," chanted a group of Planned Parent supporters who showed up to the rally.
"I'm pro-choice and women should have their right to do what they want with their bodies," said Loyola student Gabrielle Steib.
In response to the pro-life rally, a couple dozen Planned Parenthood supporters gathered in the neutral ground. Organizers say more affordable healthcare services is what the city needs.
"We think that it's really important that there's a safe, legal abortion provider and that we reduce abortion rates by fighting poverty, handing out contraception and doing sexual health -- all of which Planned Parenthood services do," said Will McGrew.
Planned Parenthood Gulfcoast says that a groundbreaking is scheduled for Wednesday. The facility is slated to open in 2014 or early 2015.