GLENS FALLS -- As opponents in the abortion debate stood on opposite sidewalks in front of local Planned Parenthood offices Monday, even drivers on Warren Street were choosing sides.
An appreciable number of drivers honked and waved, either at the anti-abortion protesters who were in the sixth day of the nationwide “40 Days for Life” vigil, or at the pro-abortion rights advocates, who organized a large counterprotest Monday.
Drivers heading into Glens Falls first passed a building owned by Susan Balfour of Open Arms Pregnancy Center, which had anti-abortion signs, then a knot of four or five pro-abortion rights supporters, then a group of anti-abortion protesters. Across the street were about a dozen pro-abortion rights supporters.
Cars would slow down, look to the side they support and give a thumbs-up to one group or the other and honk their horns.
“God bless you,” was the common call from the 40 Days supporters.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive response on our side,” said Bridget Doyle, who was standing across the street from Planned Parenthood with signs that said, “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” and “I respect your right to choose your religion. ... Respect my right to choose for my body.”
Doyle, who said she had used Facebook and personal contacts to pull the group together, was pleased at some of the people responding to her side.
“I was surprised we had a lot of older men honking and waving,” she said.
Across the street, near the driveway to Planned Parenthood, was another pro-abortion rights group, which had been at the site on the previous Monday and also had supporters near the building over the weekend.
“We were just delighted to see the other group. We don’t even know who they are,” said Joy Kaczmarek of “Get Your Girl On,” which is also organizing counter-protests. “This is energizing.”
As she used a huge marker to darken the words on her sign, Enid Mastrianni of Glens Falls, looked up at the Planned Parenthood building and explained why she was there.
“This is a nonprofit that has been part of our community for 45 years,” she said. “We need to support what they do.”
While Planned Parenthood is the only abortion facility in the region, it also provides birth control, health checkups, STD and AIDs testing and other medical care.
The passion was clear on both sides.
Doyle’s group included a mother and a toddler daughter, with a “Pro-choice mom” sign. Other signs included “Mind your own uterus,” and “Trust women.”
Among the anti-abortion protesters was a young woman who was sprinkling holy water on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood. One man had a sign with stop sign on it saying “Stop abortion,” with an American flag attached to each side of the sign and another whose sign said, “What part of murder don’t u understand?”
At the end of the row of protesters stood the unlikely pair of Joyce Smith and Steve Moss.
Smith, a grandmother who brought extra rosaries to share, was also at the protest on the first day. Moss, a much younger man, is a political activist who said he changed his mind on the topic after seeing “180,” a movie about abortion.
Thomas Clohosey, outreach coordinator for the local Knights of Columbus Council 194, has been keeping track of those who attend the 40 Days for Life event, which runs through Nov. 3. According to the group’s website, there are protests in 306 cities and eight other countries. There is a similar protest at the Planned Parenthood facility in Schenectady.
Through five days, Clohosey said there have been 70 people from 29 congregations or other groups praying outside Planned Parenthood.
His figures showed 320.25 hours of prayer in the first five days.
“I think one of the important things to look at is that we are trying to increase awareness and appreciation for the sanctity of all life is one of the main points of this effort,” Clohosey said. “This may prevent another senseless toddler death or random murder or beating of a homeless person from bored teenagers, as well as end abortion.”