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    Hundreds rally outside Planned Parenthood

    Protesters were at the Planned Parenthood clinic on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston on Saturday.
    John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
    Protesters were at the Planned Parenthood clinic on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston on Saturday.

    Hundreds of antiabortion advocates rallied outside Planned Parenthood in Allston Saturday morning during a two-hour protest filled with prayer, singing, and impassioned pleas to cut off funding to the nonprofit organization.

    The group packed the sidewalk of Commonwealth Avenue as protesters used a microphone to speak to the crowd, which at times swelled to more than 400 people. It was one of 300 protests across the country Saturday as part of a national day of protest against Planned Parenthood, said Rita Russo, who helped organize the Boston protest made up largely of Roman Catholics.

    As people huddled close, facing the building and holding signs that stated “Planned Parenthood lies” and “I am the pro-life generation,” Russo told the crowd now was the time to shut down the organization.

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    “This is isn’t a Catholic thing,” she said. “This is an everyone thing.”

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    Police patrolled the protest, keeping a path on the sidewalk clear for pedestrians. Planned Parenthood volunteers in blue vests escorted those entering the building through the walls of protesters.

    Planned Parenthood was still open to serve its patients “no matter what,” Tricia Wajda, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, said in a statement.

    No counter-protesters were visible, which Russo called surprising. Some women entered the building murmuring comments of frustration, such as, “You all really should go home,” as they rushed inside.

    “These protests are designed to shame the patients who seek basic health care services from Planned Parenthood and to intimidate the health care professionals who work here,” Wajda said in the statement. “Women should be able to get health care without fear of violence, harassment, or intimidation.”

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    Almost 30,000 people use the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts annually for “quality, affordable reproductive health care,” she said in the statement.

    The bulk of the protesters were from Greater Boston, with many coming from the South Shore, Framingham, and Arlington.

    The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, Operation Rescue: Boston, and 40 Days For Life, which Russo helps direct, hosted Saturday’s protest.

    Karen Dowling, an engineering graduate student at Stanford University working as an intern in Boston for the summer, saw a notice for the event posted on Facebook.

    “I think this was a positive experience,” the 23-year-old said. “But it was more religious than protests on the West Coast.”

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    Although Dowling is Catholic and held a rosary during most of the protest, she said she had not expected religion to play such a large role. The group prayed and sang hymns like “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

    Near the end of the protest, the Rev. Michael McNamara, a priest from Scituate, had the protesters raise their right hands toward the building as he clutched a bottle of holy water and asked God to “drive from this place all that is not in your glory” and to “save the unborn.”

    McNamara said the Catholic overtones to the protest stem from the high concentration of Catholics in the Boston area who are against abortion.

    The protest ended with the group reciting the rosary.

    Sara DiNatale can be reached at sara.dinatale@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @sara_dinatale.

    Correction: Because of a reporting error, Karen Dowling was misquoted in an earlier version of this story.