Planned Parenthood: Long a Lightning Rod in US Culture Wars
(AP) As a leading defender of abortion rights and comprehensive sex education, Planned Parenthood deals daily with some of America's most contentious issues, and is well accustomed to receiving verbal threats.
Some of the organization's supporters say Friday's deadly shooting at its clinic in Colorado Springs shows that the vitriolic rhetoric could be inspiring actual violence.
But critics show no signs of backing away from a multi-pronged offensive against Planned Parenthood, keeping protests and a congressional investigation on their agenda for the coming year.
The man arrested in the attack that killed a police officer and two civilians uttered the phrase "no more baby parts," a law enforcement official said.
Authorities have not elaborated on the gunman's possible motives, but Planned Parenthood said witnesses described him as an abortion opponent. The "body parts" phrase echoed rhetoric that surfaced last summer, when anti-abortion activists began releasing undercover videos they said showed Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.
The anti-abortion group that made the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, condemned the "barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman."
Planned Parenthood said any payments were legally permitted reimbursements for the costs of donating organs to researchers, and has since stopped accepting even that money. Though the videos have inspired multiple investigations in Congress and in several states, none has confirmed any law breaking by Planned Parenthood.
Since the videos surfaced, threats have become even more frequent, abortion-rights leaders say.
"We've seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months," said Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. "That environment breeds acts of violence."
There have been eight murders and more than 220 bombings and arson attacks at abortion facilities in the U.S. since 1977, according to the National Abortion Foundation. Two Planned Parenthood receptionists were killed in 1994 at clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Suspect in Colorado Clinic Shooting to Appear in Court
(AP) The man accused of opening fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs lived a troubled, isolated life in the mountains of South Carolina and Colorado, but acquaintances said he never hinted that he would target the organization.
Robert Lewis Dear, 57, will make his first appearance in court Monday. He is accused of killing a police officer and two civilians - an Iraq war veteran and a mother of two - who were accompanying separate friends to the clinic. The rampage touched off an [hour-long] standoff and shootout Friday that also left nine other people in the hospital. Dear's court appearance will be done by video Monday afternoon in Colorado Springs.
Neighbors who live near Dear's former South Carolina home say he hid food in the woods and lived off selling prints of his uncle's paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament.
A law enforcement official said Dear told authorities "no more baby parts" after being arrested, part of a rambling statement that investigators are parsing to understand the reasoning.
The law enforcement official who recounted Dear's statement spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the ongoing investigation. The official said the "no more baby parts" comment was among a number of statements he made to authorities after his arrest, making it difficult to know his specific motivation.
Still, U.S. Attorney John Walsh said investigators have been in touch with lawyers from the Justice Department's Civil Rights and National Security divisions, suggesting officials could pursue federal charges in addition to state homicide ones. One possible avenue is the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime to injure or intimidate clinic patients and employees.
Ted Cruz Calls Colo. Planned Parenthood Suspect 'Transgendered Leftist Activist'
(EDGE) Days after the suspect in the Colorado Planned Parenthood fatal shooting was arrested, 2016 GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered an alternate theory about the suspect, calling him a "transgendered leftist activist."
Downplaying the anti-abortion rhetoric surrounding the incident, Cruz told reporters at a campaign stop in Iowa Sunday that it was reported 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear "was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist," according to the Texas Tribune.
"If that's what he is, I don't think it's fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer," Cruz added.
Dear was taken into custody Friday after allegedly opening fire inside a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., which left three people dead and nine injured.
Cruz's comments came after a reporter reminded Cruz the suspect allegedly made a comment about "baby parts" while being arrested, the Huffington Post reports.
HuffPo points out Dear's voter registration, where he is listed as a woman, was discovered by Gateway Pundit, which calls itself a "right-of-center news website."
"We know that he was a man who was registered to vote as a woman," Cruz said, according to HuffPo. "The media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there is very little evidence to suggest that."
When the senator was asked if the incident was an act of domestic terrorism, [Cruz] said:
"I would call it a murder. It was a multiple murder of what appears to be a deranged individual. And it was horrific, it was evil and we will find out more about the facts, but I don't think we should jump to conclusions."
He added: "We don't know what those motives were, but whatever they were, it's unacceptable, and it's horrific and wrong."