News Violence

Accused Clinic Shooter Says His Victims Are ‘Casualties’ of ‘War’

Jason Salzman

Pro-choice advocates say Robert Lewis Dear Jr.'s explanation of the attack twists religious faith and points to the need for a justice department investigation of the Colorado Springs clinic attack.

Robert Lewis Dear Jr., who admitted his guilt in a court outburst in the shooting death of three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, told a local TV station that he has no remorse about the attack.

Dear called in from jail to KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs to say that the victims—Ke’Arre Stewart, Garrett Swasey, and Jennifer Markovsky—were in “a war zone” where “babies were being killed,” at the time of the shooting.

“In a war, there’s gonna be casualties,” he told the CBS affiliate in a piece that aired Sunday, referring to the three victims. “Are you gonna name the hundred million babies that were killed, that nobody talks about, nobody represents them, they have no voice, but yet our Constitution says we have the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?”

One pro-choice advocate denounced Dear’s use of religious language.

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“We take exception to the use of faith to justify attacking women who were seeking health services and doctors working to protect every person’s right and ability to make their own decision about pregnancy, parenting, and abortion,” said Cristina Aguilar, executive director at Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “There are many people of faith who support access to abortion care. No one should have to worry that they will be attacked when they try to seek health care.”

Dear’s repeated statements that he targeted the Planned Parenthood clinic due to his opposition to abortion rights should spotlight the need for such attacks and threats to be investigated by the federal government, said Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

“The horrifying words we are hearing from the Colorado Springs attacker leave little doubt as to his motivation,” Middleton said in an email to Rewire. “But these same words are what too many abortion providers and patients hear and face on a daily basis, and this has been going on for years. We need to call the threats of violence and the intimidation of health care workers and patients what it is—domestic terrorism. NARAL Pro-Choice America has correctly called for these attacks to be investigated as domestic terrorism by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Many anti-choice activists have offered equivocal condemnation of the Colorado Springs killings, while objecting to abortions being performed at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

“I think this man is sick, and I am very surprised he is allowed to call the media from jail,” said Gualberto Garcia Jones, national policy director of the Personhood Alliance, when asked by Rewire to comment on Dear’s latest public statement.

Meanwhile, GOP leaders in the Colorado legislature have said they would redouble efforts to investigate Planned Parenthood in the wake of the shooting, basing their inquiries on heavily edited smear videos released by an anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). CMP’s ringleaders now face felony charges.

Personhood USA spokeswoman Jennifer Mason said last month that the thought of the November 27 shooting still brings tears to her eyes, but the prospect of abortion care taking place at the clinic “compounds that grief and adds a large dose of nausea.”

Mason’s group aims to end legal abortion in Colorado Springs by placing a “personhood” initiative on the municipal ballot, which is in the formulation process.

“While anti-choice activists can claim they do not condone violence, their movement has created space for violent extremists, like this shooter, to believe their actions are acceptable,” Middleton said. “They are not. Colorado voters have spoken, and they consistently demonstrate that we are a pro-choice state.”

Dear, who is charged with 179 counts, including first-degree murder, faces a mental competency hearing next month to determine his fitness to stand trial, after numerous court outbursts and conflicts with his defense lawyers.

The Colorado Springs clinic partially reopened February 15.

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.

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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 Violence

Admitted Planned Parenthood Shooter Again Deemed Not Competent for Trial

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A Colorado judge ruled Thursday that Robert Lewis Dear Jr. remains not legally competent to stand trial on charges related to a November 2015 clinic siege that left three dead.

A Colorado judge ruled Thursday that Robert Lewis Dear Jr., the man who has admitted to killing three people during a siege of a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, is still not legally competent to stand trial. Dear faces 179 criminal counts, including murder and attempted murder, for the November 27, 2015 attack.

This was the second time Judge Gilbert Martinez has made such a determination. In May, Martinez made the ruling following two days of hearings where forensic pathologists told the court that Dear’s extreme political beliefs amounted to a delusional disorder sufficient to render Dear incompetent for trial.

Dear had previously told law enforcement officers and state mental health evaluators that he believed the federal government was persecuting Christians.

During Dear’s May competency hearing, Dear argued his attorneys were seeking a ruling of legal incompetence over his objections. Dear said during that hearing that he instead wanted to put forward a defense during trial that his actions were legally justified to prevent the greater evil of Planned Parenthood “selling baby parts,” a claim based off a series of discredited videos that claimed the reproductive health-care provider was illegally profiting from fetal tissue donations.

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Multiple state and federal investigations have not found any wrongdoing with regard to Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation program.

Dear’s proposed “justified homicide” defense is the same on that Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 2009, tried to raise during his trial. Operation Rescue President Troy Newman had also advocated for the murder of abortion providers under the theory that killing abortion providers prevents the so-called greater harm of those providers performing legal abortions. He has since walked back those statements. Newman is an advisor to David Daleiden, the anti-choice activist behind the videos Dear referenced to law enforcement.

Dear’s Colorado siege was not his first alleged anti-choice action. Court records show Dear had superglued locks at an abortion clinic in South Carolina and deeply admired Paul Hill, a former minister who was executed in 2003 for the 1994 murders of Florida abortion provider Dr. John Britton and Britton’s bodyguard.

As a result of Thursday’s ruling Dear will remain in a Colorado state mental health facility until his next evaluation by the court, which will take place in November.

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