December 7, 2015 — Following a deadly shooting incident at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado last month, Planned Parenthood on Saturday held a national day of solidarity, USA Today reports (Maycan/Zoroya, USA Today, 12/5).
According to the organization's announcement last week, the day of solidarity was intended as a demonstration against antiabortion-rights rhetoric that the group says contributed to the shooting (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/3).
Last month, a man opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., killing three individuals and injuring nine others. The suspect, Robert Dear, surrendered and was taken into custody. Last week, a Colorado judge told Dear that he will be charged with first-degree murder.
Law enforcement has not disclosed the motivations behind the assault. However, following Dear's arrest, he reportedly made antiabortion-rights statements to law enforcement (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/2).
Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the Colorado Springs clinic remains a crime scene. She said it will reopen once staffers are permitted to enter the building and repairs have been made.
National Day of Solidarity
Planned Parenthood supporters held rallies on Saturday throughout the U.S., including in Denver and Washington, D.C.
At the Denver-based event, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, honored the victims of the shooting and the Planned Parenthood staff who responded to the situation. "This is a just a moment that has rocked all of our worlds in a way that it's important for us to spend time together and to heal," she said.
Richards called for an end to violence against women and women's health care providers, saying, "Enough is enough." She read messages of support, including one from President Obama. Richards also applauded the local Planned Parenthood chapter for reopening its other clinics the day after the incident and inspiring local chapters throughout the U.S. According to AP/Union-Tribune, Richards met privately with workers who were "credited for saving lives" during the incident (Slevin, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/5).
Planned Parenthood Clinics Bolster Security
In related news, Planned Parenthood clinics are bolstering security efforts following the Colorado incident. Cowart said, "There's a vitriol, there's a hate speech in our country going on right now that could be causing more violence than we might otherwise see."
National Abortion Federation President Vicki Saporta said her organization sent advisories to abortion care providers to increase their watch for potential security threats. She noted that abortion care providers already have extensive security plans in place but said the recent incident serves as a reminder to review attack response plans, check security cameras and ensure that alarms and locks are functioning properly. Saporta noted, "They need to be even more aware of their surroundings and any changes, looking out for threatening people and potentially dangerous changes in their environments."
Further, police said they are increasing patrols at abortion clinics to watch for individuals who might try to carry out an attack similar to the Colorado incident.
Relatedly, Ohio lawmakers on Friday proposed a bill that would establish buffer zones around abortion clinics. According to AP/Modern Healthcare, Colorado currently has an eight-foot "floating buffer zone" (AP/Modern Healthcare, 12/5).
Former Planned Parenthood Employee Reflects on Colorado Incident
In other related news, author Bryn Greenwood in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece discusses the antiabortion-rights harassment she endured as a former Planned Parenthood employee in light of the Colorado shooting.
Greenwood writes that she worked for "several years in the 1990s" as an employee of a "small Planned Parenthood clinic in Kanas." The clinic was located "in a low-income neighborhood and offered low-cost or free services on a sliding scale," she notes, adding that while the clinic "didn't offer abortion services ... we were still engaged in an essentially radical act: providing nonjudgmental care, regardless of whether a client could afford to pay."
"Despite our seemingly safe remove from the abortion wars, my Planned Parenthood office operated under a steady trickle of verbal abuse," Greenwood writes. She describes several instances of harassment and vandalism, including arson, voicemails that "promised hellfire and damnation," windows broken by abortion-rights opponents, and multiple incidents in which abortion-rights opponents "poured butyric acid under the clinic doors and into the ventilation systems, forcing patients to reschedule appointments." According to Greenwood, "For low-income people taking unpaid time off work for medical appointments, it was one more obstacle to receiving care."
However, "[t]hese incidents didn't make the news," Greenwood states, noting that "police considered them minor acts of vandalism, on par with a broken window at a hardware store, or an M-80 in a restaurant dumpster." She adds, "The glaring distinction being that hardware stores and restaurants weren't caught in the middle of a national argument about reproductive freedom."
Citing the cycle of harassment and vandalism, Greenwood notes, "Even if they weren't coordinating with one another, the individuals who terrorized our center seemed to respond to anti-choice messaging." According to Greenwood, "Manufactured outrages," such as the misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, "feed extremist rhetoric." Further, "The Internet provides plenty of platforms for abusive comments and outright threats, and our 24-hour news cycle is full of toxic messaging," she notes.
Greenwood concludes, "The background buzz of hate builds until it incites the kind of violent acts that make the news -- the kind of incident I hoped I would never have to face when I worked at Planned Parenthood: someone walking into the clinic and opening fire" (Greenwood, Los Angeles Times, 12/4).