Reuters International

FILE PHOTO - Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is seen in Austin, Texas, U.S. on June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ilana Panich-Linsman/File Photo

(reuters_tickers)

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anti-abortion groups have called demonstrations at more than 200 Planned Parenthood locations throughout the United States on Saturday to urge Congress and President Donald Trump to strip the women's health provider of federal funding.

Planned Parenthood supporters in turn have organised 150 counter-demonstrations outside politicians' offices and government buildings.

Anti-abortion activists have said they were energized by the election of Republican Trump, who selected their long-time ally Mike Pence as vice president and nominated conservative jurist Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Jan. 27, tens of thousands converged on Washington for the 44th March for Life, where Pence became the most senior government official to speak in person at the annual anti-abortion rally, organizers said. [nL1N1FH0WV]

"We have the wind in our sails. The election was a real benchmark. Pro-life voters were really a key constituency and the Trump administration has taken note," said Eric Scheidler, executive director of Pro-Life Action League, one of the main backers of Saturday's demonstrations.

In Washington, demonstrators will meet at the Supreme Court and march to a Planned Parenthood location. Other demonstrations have been called in 45 states in cities large and small.

Planned Parenthood, a 100-year-old organisation, provides birth control and other women's health services in addition to abortion at 650 health centres, according to its website.

Its leaders say abortions rights supporters have also been energized by Trump's election, as exemplified by the hundreds of thousands who flooded Washington a day after Trump's inauguration in favour of women's rights, including abortion rights. [nL1N1FB0BM]

The pro-Planned Parenthood events were organised spontaneously, without the group's initiative, a spokeswoman said.

"All across the country, Planned Parenthood supporters are taking it upon themselves to organise in their communities on their own," Kelley Robinson, a leader of Planned Parenthood Action Fund Support, said in a statement. "Saturday, and every day, Planned Parenthood advocates and activists show that they refuse to be intimidated and they won't back down."

Although U.S. law prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, anti-abortion activists say funding for other purposes acts to subsidise abortions.

Planned Parenthood receives federal funds from Medicaid reimbursements and Title X, a federal program that supports family planning and preventive health services.

Planned Parenthood says cutting off those funds would make it more difficult for women to get birth control, Pap smears or testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Grant McCool)

Reuters

 Reuters International