On February 22, 2018 Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, came to the Nittany Lion Inn. She was speaking with a panel of PSU professors on reproductive rights and challenges. I was invited to attend by my friends in the Penn State Students for Life club (SFL). To attend the event, an RSVP was required on the Planned Parenthood event page. So, I RSVP’ed. Here’s what happened next.
The talk was scheduled to begin at 4 PM, so around 3:45, my friends and I entered the Nittany Lion Inn. The event was downstairs at the back of the building. When we eventually arrived at the room where Cecile would be speaking, there was a line to check in. The check in process involved walking up to the table where the event staff had set up two laptops, showing your ID to one of the two people behind the laptops, then receiving a “P” on your hand from another worker after you were approved at the table. Simple enough, right? It seemed that part of the process involved on the laptops was checking to see if you had previously RSVP’ed for the event, to see if your name was on the attendance list.
I was the first of my friends to walk up to the table. I showed the worker sitting there (We’re going to call him John because the narrative becomes so much easier that way. I don’t know his actual name.) my Penn State Student ID (a valid photo ID). John looked up my name on his computer, and we had a brief conversation about my signing up earlier that day. He handed me my ID and requested that I unzip my jacket. This seemed like a reasonable request to me – it’s a pretty typical security check. Unfortunately for me, I happened to be wearing a t-shirt that had the word “Catholic” on it. (You can check out the t-shirt here) As I was having the “P” written on my hand by the next worker, I saw John looking frantically up and down between the computer and my shirt with a look of shock on his face. After sitting back hard in his seat (imagine starting a car from a red light just a little too fast), he pulled out his phone and starting typing full-speed. You know the kind of texting I’m referring to. The kind where you forgot to respond to someone so you pound out a message as quickly as possible.
I receive the “P” on my hand, zip up my jacket (I know Catholics are usually pretty pro-life, and I didn’t want to anger the Planned Parenthood crowd around me, they’re usually pretty pro-choice. I had accidentally worn this shirt to the event, it’s just what I was wearing since that morning), and walk in. I sit in the back row of the room because it’s the only place I see six seats, enough space for me and all my friends. John comes into the presentation room and begins speaking with another worker on the side. John frantically points at me and clearly looks panicked. The new worker points at me, asks John “Him?”, and comes over to me after John affirms that I am in fact the person about which he was speaking. This lady came over to me and asked me if I was with SFL. After a moment of hesitation (I assumed that I would be kicked out if I said yes), I affirmed that I did, in fact, come to the event with SFL. She told me that I would have to leave. So, I changed my mind. I decided that I just wanted to listen to Cecile as an independent attendee who had previously RSVP’ed to the event.
She didn’t want to hear it. She and John were clearly annoyed that I was at the event at all. After I explained that I just wanted to listen to Cecile, she asked if I wanted to speak to “the coordinator.” I said no. She told me to go speak to the coordinator. When the girl and I left the presentation room, she announced that I wanted to speak to the coordinator. I reminded her that I didn’t want to speak to him, but I felt compelled to because she made me leave the room. So now, the coordinator walks up. It was John. (I don’t know about you, but this seems like a pretty round about way to ask me to leave.)
At this point, John begins to walk down the hallway. I walked with him. (It was at this moment that I realized I should have stayed in the room and insisted that I didn’t want to leave.). He tried to explain to me that I was with SFL. I tried to explain I just wanted to hear Cecile. He told me I had to RSVP in advance. I pointed out that I clearly had because I had a giant “P” written on my hand and I was sitting in the room where Cecile was to speak moments before. He told me SFL wasn’t welcome. I said I wasn’t with SFL. He told me to leave anyway. I said I want to stay. He said goodbye.
So I left. And my afternoon was aborted. But that’s not the worst abortion Planned Parenthood has performed. Imagine being ripped limb from limb before being vacuumed up. That would truly have put a damper on my evening.