On Friday, November 27, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear opened fire at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, killing three people and wounding a dozen others. In interviews after the shooting, Dear revealed to investigators his likely motivation for the attack. According to New York Magazine, he said, “No more baby parts.”
Because of the potential political content of the killings, many observers are calling the shooting an act of terror. Several prominent politicians and presidential candidates have commented on the killings, including those with strong anti-abortion opinions.
Planned Parenthood has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent months, particularly from Republicans. After a long congressional campaign to defund Planned Parenthood, spurred on largely by edited videos released by undercover activists at the Centers for Medical Progress, no evidence of wrongdoing was discovered at the federal level, according to Salon. But the group remains a favorite GOP target, even after the attack on Friday.
Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a presidential contender in the GOP, has been a leader in the charge against Planned Parenthood.
At a CNN presidential debate, Fiorina discussed a video allegedly taken at a Planned Parenthood abortion center showing, “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'”
Politifact determined that no such video exists in the way Fiorina describes.
In the aftermath of the Planned Parenthood shooting, Fiorina has held to her criticism while decrying the violence.
In an interview with Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday, Fiorina said, “What I would say to anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is: This is typical left-wing tactics.”
Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas and a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, decried the “vicious rhetoric on the left blaming those who are pro-life,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Cruz told reporters in Iowa, “The media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there’s very little evidence to indicate that.” Cruz also characterized the Planned Parenthood shooter as “a transgendered leftist activist.”
On CNN’s State of the Union, Mike Huckabee also denounced the violence while adding, “I think that’s a little bit disingenuous on the part of Planned Parenthood to blame people, who have a strong philosophical disagreement with the dismembering of human babies and with the selling of body parts, to say that we would like to retaliate by sending some mad man into a clinic to kill people.”
On the other side of the aisle, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders noted the danger of this kind of heated rhetoric.
“While we still do not know the shooter’s motive, what is clear is that Planned Parenthood has been the subject of vicious and unsubstantiated statements attacking an organization that provides critical health care for millions of Americans,” Sanders said in a statement issued on his website. “I strongly support Planned Parenthood and the work it is doing and hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences.”
Dozens of Twitter users voiced outright sympathy with the shooter. Several websites, including Gawker and US Uncut, have compiled some of the tweets. Some went as far as to call the Planned Parenthood shooter a hero.
The story of Robert Dear is still developing. Authorities are investigating the attack and news agencies are continuing to learn more about Dear, whose first appearance in court was Monday. According to CBS, “family members and acquaintances have previously described him as ‘weird’ and ‘unpredictable.'”