Dueling protests play out at comedy show benefit for Planned Parenthood (Detroit Free Press)

Posted on the Detroit Free Press on July 10, 2011.

By Megha Satyanarayana.

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Published: 07.10.11| Updated: 07.11.11

After a long afternoon of heated protests between abortion-rights supporters and opponents, a comedienne entertained a packed house in Pontiac on Saturday night on topics of politics and women's health.

Lizz Winstead, co-creator of "The Daily Show," performed for about 375 people at the Eagle Theater, talking mostly about politics, including sex scandals in Congress.

Her shows are benefits for Planned Parenthood affiliates. An estimate of how much was raised was not available.

Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan is embroiled in a legal battle over an office building it bought in November in Auburn Hills in which it is trying to establish a clinic. The owners of the hotel next door are fighting the clinic, saying the building can't be used as a medical office, even though the city says it's OK.

Planned Parenthood has sued the hotel owners to continue working on the clinic. The hotel owners' lawyer has said anti-abortion groups have approached him about paying significant legal bills.

Winstead said she chose to support Planned Parenthood because she has used its services. She said she got pregnant when she was a teenager and had an abortion. She said she hoped that by sharing her story, other women would be comfortable sharing theirs.

A surprise guest was U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, who has been a longtime supporter of women's health. He chastised his fellow lawmakers for recently coming to a budgetary impasse over ending Title X funding, which he said pays for health care services including cancer screening and birth control versus concerns that the money pays for abortions.

Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan CEO Lori Lamerand said that according to the organization's surveys, 5,000 Oakland County women a year go to Planned Parenthood facilities in other counties because there isn't one in Oakland. It hasn't been decided whether the Auburn Hills clinic will provide abortions, Lamerand said.

Starting about 4 p.m., anti-abortion groups, led by Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and the Frederick Douglass Foundation, set up shop on Saginaw and Pike streets with signs and graphic images depicting abortion. About an hour later, Planned Parenthood supporters arrived with pink balloons and signs about saving women's health care.

About 6 p.m., a group of anti-abortion teens did a flash mob, led by Bekha Smith, 17, of Sterling Heights. They danced and cheered. "Abortion is wrong. They are killing human life," she said.

J.B. Lacey, 24, of Detroit said she came out to preserve women's health care. "Other people need to be aware of the threat to Planned Parenthood," she said.

After the show, someone hit a poster held by a abortion-rights opponent that had a picture of a dead fetus on it. That led to a verbal argument in which police intervened.

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