Women's Health Advocates Slam Right-Wingers for Planned Parenthood Smears
Women's health advocates gathered on the steps of the Colorado capitol Tuesday to demand a stop to inflammatory language they say incites violence against health care clinics and abortion providers.
"Anti-choice rhetoric must end, or anti-choice violence never will," said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.
Planned Parenthood has been subject to a series of extreme verbal attacks by Colorado lawmakers, advocates said. In October, Colorado Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt described Planned Parenthood executives as demons, saying on a radio show, "I mean, whenever I look at a picture of those executives, if you look in the spirit, at the demons inside of them, you can see the blood dripping from their fangs. These people are just evil.” He said he was "proud" of a South Dakota lawmaker who compared the health care provider to ISIS.
When the Colorado GOP launched its effort to defund Planned Parenthood, Rep. Mike Coffman described the group's actions as flying "in the face of human decency." Mere days after the shooting, the Douglas County GOP tweeted a Breitbart article comparing Planned Parenthood to the alleged shooter, Robert L. Dear, advocates pointed out. "Abortionists and Planned Parenthood shooter are two sides of the same coin," read the headline. The GOP presidential candidates have previously attacked the group using incendiary language, with Ted Cruz calling Planned Parenthood a "national criminal enterprise" and Carly Fiorina falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of harvesting brains from living fetuses.
"It's been a veritable feeding frenzy in who could be more over the top in their anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric," said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of Progress Now Colorado.
Anti-choice politicians and pundits have categorically denied any connection between the anti-choice movement and its rhetoric and Robert Dear, the man who carried out the attack on Planned Parenthood. Right-wing media outlets went so far as to say Dear was a "left-wing transgender activist," a claim echoed by Ted Cruz (suffice it to say there's no evidence to support this claim). While the shooter's motive has not been officially determined, advocates at the rally believe the extreme rhetoric espoused by conservative politicians may have influenced Dear, who reportedly said, "No more baby parts," at the scene.
"I find it hard to believe these things are not linked," Runyon-Harms said.
She continued, "Since the tragedy last Friday, what's noticeable is the distinct lack of mention of Planned Parenthood by those same people who daily try to villainize the committed women and men who work day in and day out to provide quality affordable health care to those who need it most."
Runyon-Harms noted that one Colorado lawmaker has weighed in on the organization since the shooting—Rep. JoAnn Windholz, who issued the following statement Tuesday:
“Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. Violence begets violence. So Planned Parenthood: You stop the violence inside your walls."