(CNSNews.com) – An “angry” Planned Parenthood staffer purposefully coughed at nearby pro-life vigil participants outside the company’s premises in Pittsburgh, Pa. vigil organizers say.
Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life campaign, called the staffer’s reported action “disgusting in any circumstance,” but said that in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak it was “intolerable” and a display of “pure hate.”
The organization says the incident took place on the sidewalk in front of the Planned Parenthood premises in downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday morning. Round-the-clock prayer vigils are taking place at thousands of abortion facilities around the globe part of the annual 40 Days for Life campaign, which this year began on February 26 and is scheduled to end on April 5.
One of the vigil team, who asked not to be named, said a young female Planned Parenthood employee “turned to cough on me and give me the finger.”
She said it was definitely not a genuine cough, but “very theatrical,” and that the woman had also leaned “towards me when she started coughing.” She could not estimate the gap between them at the time, but described the staffer as being within “pre-corona” conversation distance of her when she coughed, several times.
The vigil participant said her colleagues, and one of the Planned Parenthood security guards, had witnessed the incident.
“Also it was most likely in view of their security cameras, however I’d be surprised if the video wasn’t destroyed.”
Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania has not responded to queries, sent to its public relations manager on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday.
Nikki Bruni, the Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life Pittsburgh, was not present when the alleged incident occurred, but said she had no doubt the aim was to drive the pro-lifers away.
“I am positive that those who have been intentionally coughing on us while we are praying and sidewalk advocating in front of Planned Parenthood are doing this to try to scare us away and to keep us from coming back,” she said.
“Truthfully, it is a shrewd and effective tactic from their perspective. People are fearful right now of contracting this terrible coronavirus, so what better way of keeping pro-lifers away than to have people cough on us?”
“But those of us who care about the innocent lives that are being lost will continue to pray and witness where it is happening, regardless of the risk,” Bruni said. “We pray for the conversion of the workers, that they may realize the value of all human life – our, theirs and the smallest of our brothers and sisters in the womb.”
Carney said in a blog post the COVID-19 outbreak “is highlighting how disgraceful Planned Parenthood really is.”
“Planned Parenthood either wants you to get Coronavirus or wants you to think you have Coronavirus,” he said. “In a blatant move, outright ignoring the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, one very angry Planned Parenthood worker in Pittsburgh intentionally coughed on 40 Days for Life vigil participants.”
“This is disgusting in any circumstance – it is pure hate in the midst of a global pandemic. The abortion worker should be fired in my judgment.”
“I expect Planned Parenthood to tolerate such vile acts from their employees for one reason: they are directed at pro-life people during a viral outbreak.”
Carney said Planned Parenthood in Pittsburgh was “angry because our amazing, tireless leader Nikki leads a great vigil and has for over a decade.”
He said the sidewalk counselor who had been coughed at had “saved a baby” just a day before.
“Nikki has saved hundreds of lives over the years out of love and mercy, and love and mercy always overcome hate – even in the midst of a pandemic.”
While the 40-day campaign is continuing for now, participants are being urged to comply with all national, state and local directives, avoid physical contact, and follow “social distancing” guidelines at vigil locations, including standing “at least three feet away from others while praying.”