Sims apologizes, ignites new outrage

After hundreds of anti-abortion activists held a rally against him outside the Planned Parenthood clinic at 11th and Locust Street on May 10, pressure has been put on Rep. Brian Sims to issue an apology for the actions that spurred the protests.

In a fundraising letter May 18, Sims issued his first apology since the furor began May 1. But the letter has only fueled more outrage from his critics.

Prominent New York Post columnist and CNN contributor Salena Zito posted Sims’ letter on Twitter May 18, with the comment, “@BrianSimsPA is sorry not sorry. What he really is, is angry. REALLY ANGRY. Check out his fundraising email he sent out. Wonder if @RepTurzai will censure this guy?”

Rep. Turzai is Michael Turzai, Speaker of the P.A. House. His office had no comment at press time.

Sims opened his letter saying, “Team, if you saw any of the national coverage of my actions throughout the last 10 days, I wanted to send an apology. I recognize my behavior was aggressive and that I acted in an inappropriate way. For that, I am truly sorry.”

Sims wrote, “My emotions took over because I was, and am, angry. I’m angry that pro-life protestors use white privilege and racism to attack people of color in my district and across the nation, for seeking critical health care. I’m angry that there doesn’t seem to be a “pro-life” sentiment for all — for all Americans and for all Philadelphians.”

The letter continued to enumerate Sims’ anger toward the anti-choice movement and the lack of concern for both Philadelphians and women nationwide.

But Sims did acknowledge his role in creating problems for the clinic by energizing anti-abortion activists at a time when restrictive anti-abortion rulings have threatened women’s constitutional rights.

Sims ends his letter with another apology, “All of this makes me angry, but in that moment, in that video, I should not have let my emotions get the best of me. I should not have disrespected Planned Parenthood’s policies of not engaging with protestors. For that, I’m absolutely sorry.”

Sims continued, “I will always fight to protect women’s rights, especially now when they continue to be under attack. To the staff, volunteers, and patients of Planned Parenthood, I’m sorry to have created this distraction. I vow to do better. I vow to keep fighting for the same values of progress for all that I’ve always fought for. I am committed to being a better advocate and ally.”

Zito may have been the first complainant, but since her comment was posted, the outrage has grown. Sims made headlines in conservative news including Breitbart, Washington Examiner, Daily Caller, Red State and National Review. The letter was also reported on by every local TV news organization in Philadelphia.

Local and national media have kept the story in the news for several weeks since the May 1 videos Sims took of himself castigating women and girls praying outside the clinic. Sims’ videos received several million views on social media. In one video, Sims offered $100 to anyone who could identify the teenage girls saying the rosary outside the clinic. In another he berated an older woman praying the rosary in front of the clinic calling her “disgusting.” The woman never spoke during the nine-minute video.

The parents of two of the teenagers have raised more than $130,000 for “pro-life causes” on a GoFundMe account calling for a response to Sims.

Sims previously posted an explanation of his actions on Twitter May 7, which received 39,000 responses before he locked his account to all but his 57,000 followers.

In that video, Sims detailed his concerns as a patient escort at the clinic for the well being of women and girls who use that clinic. He also explained that he had lived on that block of Locust Street for 15 years and had witnessed the harassment experienced by those using the clinic. He explained he used the clinic himself for PrEP.

Sims said, “I will fiercely protect a woman’s right to make the best choices for her health and her body, unimpeded. I also know that two wrongs don’t make a right, especially on the front lines of a civil rights battle. I can do better, and I will do better, for the women of Pennsylvania.” 

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.