News Violence

Advocates: Accused Planned Parenthood Shooter’s Outburst ‘Not a Coincidence’

Jason Salzman

Pro-choice advocates say that last week's in-court outburst by Robert Lewis Dear Jr. is further proof that anti-choice rhetoric contributed to the November 27 killings at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

Colorado pro-choice activists, who claimed in a news conference that anti-choice rhetoric has incited clinic violence, now say that an in-court outburst by the accused shooter in November’s attack at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, Robert Lewis Dear Jr., is further proof that such rhetoric contributed to the November 27 murders.

“Kill the babies, that’s what Planned Parenthood does,” Dear told the judge during a court hearing last week, according to media reports, which disclosed that Dear appeared to be mentally unstable and had a history of violence and abuse. Dear said in one outburst that he is a “warrior for the babies.”

Dear reportedly said “no more baby parts” when interviewed after his November 27 arrest.

“I think Dear’s comments remove any doubt as to what his motive was,” Amy Runyon-Harms, director of ProgressNow Colorado, said in an email to Rewire. “Elected officials who use over-the-top rhetoric in an effort to appease their base need to think twice before doing so and recognize the impact their words have on others.”

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Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, agreed.

“The attacks have gotten worse, and the fact that the gunman repeated the same rhetoric about ‘baby parts’ we’ve heard from abortion opponents is not a coincidence,” Middleton told Rewire. “Words have meaning, and people inclined to violence can act on that meaning in awful ways. The result here is that an Iraq war veteran, a mother of two, and a police officer lost their lives, and six children lost their parent.”

After Dear’s court appearance last Wednesday, during which he admitted his guilt, Planned Parenthood issued a statement expressing sorrow about the tragedy, along with concern that the onslaught of political attacks on Planned Parenthood motivated the violence.

“We know that words matter,” Vicki Cowart, director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said in the statement. “It is time to put an end to the dangerous rhetoric that has permeated our political conversations. Enough is enough—this violence, whether inflicted with words or with weapons, cannot become our normal.”

Activists at a December 1 news conference in Colorado named three anti-choice politicians as those using rhetoric that contributed to the shooting in Colorado Springs. Each was quoted by activists as condemning Planned Parenthood in the months after the release of discredited videos by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress.

One of the lawmakers, state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Republican from Colorado Springs, told a radio host after the shooting that Planned Parenthood executives have the “same demonic spirit of murder” as Dear.

Asked if that means there’s no difference between Planned Parenthood officials and Dear, Klingenschmitt said via email, “I’ve been consistent in my statements calling for an end to ALL of the violence, not just half of the violence as the pro-abortionists do. They remain inconsistent in their calls to end some violence, while they engage in violent behavior against children behind closed doors.”

Dear was formally charged in El Paso County District Court on 179 counts, including eight counts of first-degree murder.

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