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.

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