Seattle Storm takes unprecedented stand in support of Planned Parenthood

SEATTLE — The WNBA team Seattle Storm took an unprecedented stand in support of Planned Parenthood before playing against the Chicago Sky on Tuesday.

To show support for the organization, the Storm planned an event for July 18, Stand With Planned Parenthood, that will be held on Key Arena’s West Plaza and will include a rally and fundraising efforts.

For single tickets purchased, the Storm says it will donate $5 to Planned Parenthood. The Storm also will be hosting an online auction, which will include game-worn shoes from Storm players and other items. A company called Vermouth is also donating $1 for every app download.

By Tuesday night, the team estimated they will have raised at least $20,000, with thousands more expected from the app downloads and auction.

"We believe it is important to add our voice in favor of comprehensive health care for girls and women by supporting this wonderful organization," said Storm co-owner Dawn Trudeau. "The essential services provided by Planned Parenthood make the organization a natural ally and partner for the Storm."

The support for Planned Parenthood comes at a time when federal funding for the organization is debated in Congress and abortion-related bills are being heard in state legislatures around the country.

Responding to an inquiry by KIRO 7, Esther Hurni-Ripplinger of Human Life of Washington wrote, "If Seattle Storm wants to give to the number one abortion provider in the country they are free to give. I am concerned for fans who want to attend but who may be opposed to this cause. Are they welcome? How are they going to opt out or are they being forced?"

On Tuesday, Trudeau told KIRO 7 most fans were overwhelmingly supportive. More than 8,000 people attended the game.

Four protesters showed up at the back of the rally, with large posters of dead fetuses. Storm fans and Planned Parenthood supporters then danced in front of them.

“I don’t think this has ever been done before anywhere, in a professional athletic team,” said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands.

While supporters said they felt critics mainly hailed from areas outside of Seattle, Beth Daranciang said she is from North Seattle.

“I think it’s a terrible precedent. And that’s part of the reason I’m out here,” Daranciang said.

She said that holding graphic images of the fetuses is similar to civil rights movements showing graphic images of people being assaulted.

“Civil rights change has usually come through images and people being confronted with images that are not pretty,” she said.

Carmen Hudson, a surgeon and Storm fan, approached one of the protesters to engage in conversation.

Hudson told KIRO 7 the experience was frustrating.

“I tried not to swear,” Hudson said.

She said that while protesters show gory pictures of fetuses, “there’s none of the goriness of the teenagers who die from sepsis, who have horrible outcomes from not having access to health care. How tiny, tiny, a bit of Planned Parenthood’s work this actually is.”

According to national data from Planned Parenthood, 3 percent of medical services the organization provided in 2015 were abortions.

In the regional chapter, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands, 16.13 percent of services in 2016 were abortions.

Charbonneau told KIRO 7 the donations from Tuesday’s Storm partnership funds the other services provided by the chapter, such as screenings, primary care, pregnancy tests, family planning, and STD tests.

She said that abortion services are funded adequately by other donors who have specifically chosen to do so.