WASHINGTON — The pro-life group Students for Life created a visual display on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, using 196,543 baby socks to protest funding for Planned Parenthood as lawmakers debate a federal budget.
The group said it collected baby socks in its #SockIt2PP campaign in order to represent the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, told TheBlaze that delivering all of the socks to the Capitol — and getting all of them through security — was quite a feat.
She said she was thankful for her team’s “willingness to do whatever it takes” during the “insanity” of transporting and delivering the socks.
“It was all-hands-on-deck getting these socks out here,” Hawkins said.
She said the group decided to use a visualization “to get people to talk about this issue,” and to remind the new Republican majority in Congress that “we elected you to do a job.”
“We elected you to defund Planned Parenthood, and we want it done now,” Hawkins said.
She said the socks were changing minds even as they were unloaded from the truck.
“I was changing kids’ minds on the street,” Hawkins said. “People were just walking by, and I would say, ‘Every sock represents one baby Planned Parenthood aborts,’ and people’s mouths were dropping. … One kid came back and said, ‘Can you say that again?’ So it’s a huge reminder that these are babies, and that’s not even all of them.”
Planned Parenthood typically performs over 300,000 abortions each year, according to their annual reports. The organization’s 2013-14 annual report said that it performed 327,653 abortions in 2013.
The group held a rally alongside their display. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) thanked the group for their effort.
“It’s a devastatingly large number,” Sasse said of the abortions the socks represented. “We need to have images like this so people start to reflect on the magnitude of the suffering that’s happening out there.”
Sasse said the pro-life movement “is about celebrating human dignity and talking about the gift of life.”
“What we’re about is about love,” he said.
“So I looked at the guy’s Twitter when he was making those comments this weekend and I noticed that the top of his Twitter feed says he ‘fights for the little guy,’ ” Sasse said. “And I started thinking about, who are the most vulnerable among us?”
Sasse said he tweeted a picture of a baby at 12 weeks gestation to Perez to make the case that the baby is “a special little guy.”
“And the response on social media was people accusing me of propaganda,” Sasse said. “That seems strange since the picture I tweeted out is just science.”
Madeline Runkles, 18, a member of Students for Life, brought some of the attendees of the rally to tears when she discussed her decision to choose life when she discovered that she is pregnant earlier this year.
Runkles said that she briefly considered abortion upon making the discovery “because I believed all the lies that Planned Parenthood told a girl like me, that you can’t do it, you can’t accomplish your dreams, your whole life is ruined [if you have a baby].”
She said that, although Planned Parenthood depicts itself as a champion of women’s rights, “I can’t think of anything less empowering than telling a woman she can’t do it.”
“And I look at all these socks, and that could have been my baby,” she said. “But I choose to let my baby wear these socks.”
“I know it’s going to be hard to accomplish my dreams, but I get to have a little guy next to me, and we get to do it together,” Runkles said.
Sue Thayer, a former Planned Parenthood manager in Iowa, told the rally that “there should be little feet in all of these socks.”
After the rally, Thayer told TheBlaze that taxpayers are providing over half a billion dollars each year to an organization that isn’t transparent with them.
“They care about their bottom line,” she said, arguing that the organization isn’t so much a nonprofit as it is a business.
Asked if there are any misconceptions about her former employer amid debates over its funding, Thayer replied, “They don’t do mammograms.”
Students for Life plans to use the socks they collected in upcoming protests and displays before ultimately donating them to crisis pregnancy centers.