Colorado Planned Parenthood Shootings: Another Attack on Women’s Health Care

(Corbis)

Three people were killed, including one police officer on the scene trying to stop the shooter; nine others were injured. The gunman has since been identified by police as Robert Lewis Dear, a 57-year-old man, who, reports say, had legally obtained his firearm. 

The gunman suspected of storming a Planned Parenthood clinic and killing a police officer and two others used the phrase “no more baby parts’’ to explain his actions, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The gunman –  a 57-year-old man – was apparently so afraid of women’s healthcare that he engaged in an act of domestic terrorism. This man apparently wanted women to be afraid to seek out necessary, basic health care services.

The Planned Parenthood health center in Colorado Springs provides abortion services, contraception counseling and prescriptions, HIV testing, men’s health care, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and services, STD testing and treatment, and general women’s health care. It accepts 20 different kinds of insurance and provides services to all patients, regardless of insurance or financial status.

The gunman apparently wanted to terrorize women from getting accessible, comprehensive, and affordable health care.

And it isn’t just one man who is afraid of women’s health, but many. (And, yes, in all of the most recent incidents, the attackers have been men.)

As Vox’s Sarah Kliff noted Friday night, “[S]hootings at abortion clinics are rare. But violence against clinics is not.” The National Abortion Federation reports 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arson attacks and thousands of violent threats against clinics since 1977. In the past year fires at Planned Parenthood Clinics in Thousand Oaks, California and Pullman, Washington, have been ruled arson.

The recent attacks on Planned Parenthood may have come as a result of the widely discredited, heavily edited “sting” videos released this summer by the antiabortion activist group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), that have been widely discredited by the medical community. Terrorizing women for having autonomy over their own health decisions is something that has long antagonized many — so much so that they would, clearly, turn to killing, violence, and terrorism rather than let women live safely and independently.

Congress has held four hearings on Planned Parenthood in the past few months alone, despite countless states having found the reproductive and sexual health care provider free of any wrongdoing in internal, statewide investigations. The claims against Planned Parenthood made by the CMP have been uniformly found to be untrue: Planned Parenthood is not illegally selling fetal parts, as the organization insists. So the continued investigation of Planned Parenthood, despite the most recent attacks on the integrity of the organization being unfounded, serve only to prove that it isn’t the practice of fetal tissue donation (a long-standing, legal practice that is critical to biomedical research and was formalized and expanded under President Ronald Reagan) that those who rally against Planned Parenthood are against, but the access to safe and legal abortion as guaranteed to American women under 1973’s Roe v. Wade ruling — and to women themselves.

As of Saturday afternoon, almost 24 hours after the shooting began, only one of of the current field of Republican presidential candidates (and there are plenty of them — 14 thus far, with an additional three who dropped out of the race before the primaries) has publicly spoken out to condemn yesterday’s terrorist attack in Colorado Springs. Ted Cruz is the exception, tweeting, “Praying for the loved ones of those killed, those injured & first responders who bravely got the situation under control in Colorado Springs.”

None of those candidates, who often compete over who is the most anti-abortion (even at the risk of women’s lives), thought to speak out in support of the women of the country they seek to lead who watched and waited through a five-hour attack in Colorado Springs yesterday.

Yesterday’s attack was violent not only in its physical terror, but in its ideological terror as well. It can be seen as a tragic capstone on the mounting belief by so many that women are not equal in their own bodies and not safe in their own bodies.

Health care, including abortion care — which, indeed, helps women dictate their own health as well as their own economic, emotional, physical, and psychological well-being, is, quite literally, the right to live. The opposition to women’s health care, and ensuring women’s access to health care, is nothing short of articulating that women do not have the right to have free and equal lives.

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