This week, Robert Lewis Dear will faced a judge for the first time since he opened fire in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on Friday and murdered 3 people—a police officer, a veteran of the Iraq War, and a woman, all of whom were parents. It appears that murder charges will be filed at the local level. It was only two months ago that we talked about how often mass gun violence happens and how its preventability is vastly understated by legislators and the NRA. Even at the time, it wasn’t a matter of if this would happen again but when and how many lives would be shattered.
Technically, this shooting isn’t a ‘mass murder’ by FBI standards but even Mike Huckabee, professional Planned Parenthood detractor, was willing to call it “domestic terrorism.” I wish I was surprised that it happened at one of their clinics but I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen, without knowing exactly where or when. Planned Parenthood acknowledges the target on its own back and over the last 3 years, the feelings of obvious targeting has only intensified. We know how much we need Planned Parenthood. It helps women and men get access to reproductive care. It saves lives and saves the state money. These are not facts in dispute by anyone, except for a political fringe who views it as an abortion multiplex (please spend an hour at any clinic in Dallas—not Plano—and tell me about these fancy abortion factories again. Its care is made special by its humanity, not its facilities).
Dear’s motives are completely transparent. No one who heard the events and the location could reasonably believe this wasn’t political. If that wasn’t enough, witnesses report he was talking about selling baby parts. This should sound incredibly familiar because Fox News has been screeching about it since July and riling up their base. I’m not going to give this man the benefit of saying he was mentally unstable, since I don’t have any of those facts. He was certainly fanatical about what he believed, like anti-choice radicals in the past. He likely believed, like the man who assassinated Dr. George Tiller, that he was saving innocent lives by ending others. What’s scary about this isn’t that it happened or it could happen but there are thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans who will shake their heads to coworkers and colleagues but who inside will have a small fire of righteous indignation burning, who really believe the same things in their heart of hearts.
There are millions of Americans who will believe that Dear will be spared punishment for his crimes by God because of his good intentions, because he “saved innocent lives.” These are the people we need to be afraid of, that we need to reach the most. These are the people who don’t understand how dangerous it is to equate abortion to murder, to call Planned Parenthood a slaughterhouse, to shoot and heavily edit ridiculous propaganda films about “selling” fetal parts. When you use this as your rallying cry about a nationwide organization with 700 facilities of which one received any reimbursement for fetal part transit, you are calling up those who maintain these backward and terrifying views, which value fetuses over living humans. And when a man screams “No more baby parts” as he shoots up a medical clinic, you can be damn sure he’s not the only one who’s going to take you seriously. Those who are targeting Planned Parenthood, in their congressional or presidential campaigns, on their news programs, and in Congress, have this blood on their hands and the blood of anyone else who takes up arms against reproductive care. Because the same part of me that knew this was going to happen knows it isn’t over.