by Dr. Morgan Healey
This is the second in the blog series by Morgan Healey, immediate past President of ALRANZ, who has recently returned to the US. It aims to bring to life the uniquely absurd state of reproductive rights and justice in the US.
The US witnessed yet another attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, which the newspapers have described as a siege. On Friday, 27 November, a man entered the Colorado clinic and for five hours exchanged gunfire with police. Three people were killed and nine wounded. At the moment not much is known. The man taken into custody alive has been named as Robert Lewis Dear, 59 (a good point has been made that if the suspect had not been white, odds are that he would have been shot dead at the scene). It will take time to piece together a narrative of what occurred yesterday – who Robert Dear is, where he got his high power assault rifle, and what his motive was.
What is known is that this community will take time to heal from this event. I cannot begin to imagine the intense anguish and fear the victims, their families, the staff that work at the clinic and their patients must be feeling. My heartfelt condolences go out to all those involved. They deserve our compassion and sympathy but also our anger. Anger that such acts of aggression could occur inside a medical clinic. It seems unlikely given the vituperous battle against Planned Parenthood by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which released a series of surreptitious, heavily-edited videos this summer (see RH Reality Check for more information), and subsequent moves by Republicans to defund the organization, that this was anything but a targeted attack aimed at terrorizing Planned Parenthood. In some ways Dear’s motives are irrelevant. Yesterday’s tragedy highlights a growing intensity of terrorizing acts aimed at reproductive health clinics, and the fact that hateful speech can flame these acts of violence.
In Ilyse Hogue’s statement, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, she described yesterday’s horrible event as an act of domestic terrorism (see Dahlia Lithwick’s October 2015 piece for the link between the burning of black churches, abortion clinic attacks, domestic terrorism and why we should be horrified). Violence against abortion clinics has been a common occurrence since Roe v Wade (Vox has a good graphic of the types of violence here). Clinic and staff members have been subject to daily threats against their lives – death and bomb threats – harassment, including their family members, and arson and bombing attacks. Before yesterday, eight people had been murdered by anti-choice terrorists. Patients coming to reproductive health clinics, regardless of the care they are seeking, face protestors, harassment and intimidation.