About 50 people gathered at the Planned Parenthood Modesto Health Center on Sunday to show support for the clinic’s patients, staff and mission. The prayer vigil was organized in the wake of an arson fire at the McHenry Avenue facility May 25.
The group sang songs, prayed and carried signs with messages including “Protect women’s health” and “Keep abortion legal.”
Yards away on the sidewalk at the corner of McHenry and Claradell Avenue, a lone woman held a sign with photos of babies and the message “Take my hand, not my life.”
The Rev. Darcy Baxter, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stanislaus County, decried the arson as a way of intimidating, of spreading fear.
Yes, abortion is an important element of what Planned Parenthood does, she said, “and we support those services.” But 97 percent of services the health center provides are related to the health of men, women and children, she added. “You can bring your child here and get immunizations and cholesterol checks. ... Planned Parenthood provides care to the poorest among us, to those who are on the edges.”
The Planned Parenthood protester nearby said her presence was not meant to condone the arson attack. “It’s really pathetic that you’re gonna have a vigil at a Planned Parenthood,” said the woman, who would not give her name and shielded her face from the camera. Her protest “has nothing to do with the fire. It’s just you don’t have a vigil where they kill babies. That’s it.”
The health center has reopened, offering limited services for the time being. About one-third of the two-story building at 1431 McHenry Ave. suffered water damage, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said last week. “We were very fortunate in that the fire sprinklers did their work.”
The fire was reported about 4 a.m. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte President and CEO Linda Williams said someone apparently threw a gas can through one of the glass doors and ignited it. Fire damage was contained to the immediate area, she said.
Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to call 209-525-5550.