News Violence

Colorado Pro-Choice Leaders: Extreme Rhetoric Contributed to Shootings at Planned Parenthood

Jason Salzman

Pro-choice leaders are denouncing an atmosphere of “inflammatory rhetoric” and intimidation in Colorado leading up to Friday’s murders at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

Read more of our articles on the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting here.

Pro-choice leaders in Colorado say an atmosphere of intimidation and extremist rhetoric could have played a role in last week’s shootings at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs.

Reproductive rights advocates pointed to the series of deceptively edited, widely discredited attack videos released by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as playing a key role in enraging the public and prompting vitriol aimed at Planned Parenthood and the people who receive health care at Planned Parenthood centers. CMP officials have worked alongside Republican lawmakers to accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue despite no evidence of wrongdoing turning up in GOP-led investigations of the health-care organization.

“We have to acknowledge that this violence was inspired in part by the false allegations that were made about Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers both in the recent heavily edited videos and the myths and misinformation that are regularly touted,” Cristina Aguilar, executive director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), said in an email to Rewire.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:

VOTE NOW

“Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation to push a political agenda or to make a statement,” Aguilar said. “It is about fear, and in this case it is part of a long history of harassment and violence against health centers that provide abortion.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said he hoped to see a change in the way abortion rights are discussed in political circles following the rampage of alleged shooter Robert Lewis Dear, who reportedly said “no more baby parts” during police questioning.

“I think our community, the United States of America, ought to begin a discussion looking at, how do you begin to tone back the inflammatory rhetoric that in some ways might be good for selling products in advertisements or whatever, but in some way it is inflaming people to the point where they can’t stand it,” Hickenlooper said in a CNN interview Sunday. “And they go out and they lose connection to reality in some way and commit these acts of unthinkable violence.”

Hickenlooper emphasized he did not want to “restrict people’s free speech.”

“But I think we should have a discussion of at least urging caution when we discuss some of these issues so that we don’t get people to a point of committing senseless violence,” he said.

Pro-choice advocates said it would be critical to label the Colorado Springs shootings as domestic terrorism.

“Too many providers and patients in Colorado, a pro-choice state, face harassment and threats of violence on a daily basis,” Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, said in a statement. “This is not acceptable—it should never be acceptable. We need to call the threats of violence and the intimidation of health care providers and patients what it is—domestic terrorism. And more public officials in Colorado and across the country, not just advocacy groups and the people on the front lines, need to take a stand opposing domestic terrorism and supporting women’s health.”

In most of its communications, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) has focused on the safety of its patients and staff, but the organization has also drawn attention to extremists who are creating a “poisonous environment.”

“We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country,” PPRM tweeted on Friday. “We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.”

Anti-choice leaders have mostly denounced the violence with equivocation, and they are pushing back on the idea that extremist rhetoric may have caused the murders.

KNUS radio host Dan Caplis, who is ardently anti-choice, said on Monday that Hickenlooper “just doesn’t want us speaking the truth” about Planned Parenthood.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:

VOTE NOW

Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

News Politics

NARAL Leader Campaigns to Oust Anti-Choice Colorado Congressman

Jason Salzman

NARAL Pro-Choice America officials have stepped up support for pro-choice Democrat Morgan Carroll in her competitive race against U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), who’s voted repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called voters this week on behalf of pro-choice Colorado state Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), who’s running against anti-choice U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora).

Hogue stopped by Carroll’s campaign office in a Denver suburb and called voters, in part, she told Rewire, because NARAL wants to “send a signal to the anti-choice legislators who are hiding from their anti-choice records when they come home at election time.”

Hogue pointed to Coffman’s repeated votes to defund Planned Parenthood—efforts based on discredited videos released by an anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress. Coffman used a Planned Parenthood Action Fund logo in a political advertisement, despite having voted repeatedly to defund the organization, as first reported by Rewire. He voted again to defund Planned Parenthood after the ad aired.

“Mike Coffman has worked to defund women’s health centers and even fought to redefine rape,” Carroll said in a statement during Hogue’s visit. “Millions of women across this country simply can’t afford to have representatives like Mike Coffman in Congress.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:

VOTE NOW

Coffman once co-sponsored a measure that redefined “a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt only ‘forcible rape.'” Coffman’s campaign did not return a call seeking comment.

Coffman’s district, concentrated in the suburbs east of Denver, is perennially ranked as home to some of the nation’s most competitive political races. Coffman was first elected in 2008, two years before district boundaries were re-drawn, making for a much closer elections.

The Republican, a former U.S. Marine who has become known as a tough campaigner, surprised analysts by his ten-point margin of victory in 2014, after a narrow 2 percent margin in 2012.

Asked for a reaction to her phone calls on Carroll’s behalf, Hogue said she was encouraged by the candidate’s name recognition but dismayed by the apathy she encountered, though she noted that the election season is young.

“Particularly if we continue to hear that Trump is down by 15 points in polls, apathy is going to be a real issue in this election,” Hogue said. “People need to be made to feel that their vote matters. It matters at the top of the ticket. It certainly matters when you get down to the folks who are going to stay in the state house here [in Colorado] or go to D.C. and do the day-to-day work of moving this agenda forward. People need to hear that their participation has value.”

“We hope our investment in the field effort here puts Morgan Carroll a little bit closer to victory, but also builds power for NARAL members and the issue long term,” Hogue said. “Our job doesn’t end on Election Day. It begins on Election Day.”

credo_rewire_vote_3

Vote for Rewire and Help Us Earn Money

Rewire is in the running for a CREDO Mobile grant. More votes for Rewire means more CREDO grant money to support our work. Please take a few seconds to help us out!

VOTE!

Thank you for supporting our work!