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Demonstrators for and against abortion square off at rallies Saturday

Hundreds of men marched from Planned Parenthood to the State House, where they were met by counterprotesters.

Participants in a Men's March to abolish abortion started at Planned Parenthood and continued on Commonwealth Avenue to the State House.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Hundreds of men protesting women’s abortion rights marched Saturday from Planned Parenthood in Boston to the State House, where they faced off with a phalanx of counter-demonstrators who tried to drown them out while demanding protections for reproductive health care.

The Men’s March, which set off from Planned Parenthood’s clinic on Commonwealth Avenue following an hour-long protest outside its doors, drew participants from across the state and included a rally at the State House with families.

William Mulcahy, 61, of Taunton, said he participated in the Men’s March and rally to “protect the unborn” and get legislators to end abortion.

“Life begins at conception, and we need to protect those living beings,” Mulcahy said. “And we need to be there to help those who are struggling to make that decision.”

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Throughout the day, antiabortion protesters came face-to-face with counter-demonstrators, who lined the sidewalk outside the clinic, walked with them to the capitol, and protested during the State House rally.

Louisa Huston, 18, a Suffolk University freshman, said that if abortion is banned, more women will die from unsafe abortions and others won’t get access to health care.

“My mother raised me to always stand up for what I thought was right. And I’m a woman — I have to support my sisters and myself and my rights,” Huston said.

A separate rally to support abortion rights was held at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Boston Common around 2 p.m., and participants joined with other counter-demonstrators at the State House.

“Too many women will never hear the reassurance that they have every right to choose abortion, but they do,” a speaker told the reproductive rights demonstrators on the Common.

Dozens of uniformed officers were on hand for the events and escorted the Men’s March protesters during their roughly hour-long march to the State House. At Planned Parenthood, the men, and several women, gathered to protest outside the clinic around 11:30 a.m. as Planned Parenthood volunteers lined the sidewalk, along with counter-demonstrators.

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“There is nothing pro-life about trying to deny people access to life-saving health care and control over their own bodies,” said Nate Horwitz-Willis, executive vice president of external affairs at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, in a statement Saturday.

Tom Clasby, 58, who lives in central Massachusetts and came to Boston to participate in the Men’s March, said men should be able to make known their opinions on abortion. He acknowledged the counter-demonstrators and said the marchers loved the people who were opposing them Saturday.

“We’re not here to put anybody down. I’m not here to push our opinion,” Clasby said. “We’re here to support life and to support our sisters.”

Dennis Marsicano, 70, who lives west of Boston, said he is a firm believer in the sanctity of life. Aborting life at any stage is morally wrong, he said.

“I’m a faithful Catholic, and by my faith, I’m called to bear witness to those who cannot speak for themselves, the unborn, who were murdered in the womb by the millions every year,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Counter-demonstrators said they wanted to find ways of undermining the Men’s March; a few dozen reproductive rights supporters donned clown costumes — brightly colored wigs and makeup — and walked along with the march, playing horns and drums.

As the abortion opponents repeatedly prayed, the so-called Boston Clown Music Parade played “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

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“We need to show they are clowns, and drown their noise out,” said Emily Neumann, 35, of Boston, who walked along the Men’s March course while banging on a drum. “We don’t tolerate this kind of fascist nonsense in Massachusetts.”

At the State House, police closed off a section of Beacon Street to traffic and cordoned off the antiabortion rally from the counter-demonstration, which surged in size to a few hundred as the rally went on for about two hours, ending around 3:30 p.m.

The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, in a statement, said the Men’s March was “an encouraging expression of pro-life solidarity, at a time when our institutions are subjected to criminal acts of arson and vandalism, and when crisis pregnancy centers are facing restriction and suppression at the hands of pro-abortion elected officials.”

Ali Sorrels, 24, with the Cambridge Women’s Center, was among those protesting the abortion rally. She held a sign that read, “Care, not coercion.”

“Abortion is a human right, like health care, and should be guaranteed and accessible to everyone,” Sorrels said. “The only question that should ever be asked of a woman is whether or not she wants one.”


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Matt Yan can be reached at matt.yan@globe.com. Follow him @matt_yan12.