The Alleged Motive Of The Planned Parenthood Shooter Has Reignited The Debate On Anti-Abortion Violence
The shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday may have been politically motivated. The suspected shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, allegedly said "no more baby parts" in a statement to police about the motivation for his attack, which killed three people, including two unnamed civilians and University of Colorado police officer Garrett Swasey. No clear motive was ascertained from Dear's statements, but law enforcement officials say he mentioned politics, abortion, and President Obama during his remarks.
Even though the shooter never clearly stated a motive, Planned Parenthood and supporters of the organization have taken Dear's comments as conclusive evidence for his rationalization of the shooting. Planned Parenthood tweeted Sunday morning on its official account, "We now know the man responsible for the tragic shooting at PP's health center in CO was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion."
The "baby parts" comment seems to reference the series of videos that were released by anti-abortion activists earlier this year, which claimed to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal tissues. The videos, which were found to have been edited, caused huge public outrage and incited intense rhetoric from GOP presidential candidates and right-wing politicians about the need to defund Planned Parenthood. Now, that rhetoric is being at least partially blamed for the attack. "I hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences," Bernie Sanders said in a tweet on Saturday.
In addition to reigniting the national dialogue about abortion rights, this latest mass shooting is once again raising the issue of mental health and violence. Donald Trump was quick to blame the suspect's actions on a mental illness, through no diagnoses have been reported. "He's a mentally disturbed person. There's no question about that," said Trump during an appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday morning.
Reports from friends and family paint Dear as a strange, but harmless, man — not someone with a disclosed or overt mental illness. "He was really strange and out there, but I never thought he would do any harm," Dear's former next door neighbor John Hood told NBC News.
Some public figures have introduced yet another motive and called the attack an incidence of domestic terrorism. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee have commented on the shooting and used the phrase to characterize the attack. "Regardless of why he did it, what he did is domestic terrorism," Huckabee said on CNN's State of the Union. "What he is did is absolutely abominable, especially to those of us in the pro-life movement, because there's nothing about any of us that would condone or in any way look the other way at something like this."
The motive may seem unimportant in the wake of such a senseless tragedy, but figuring out exactly what prompted the violence may prevent another attack of this nature in the future. Dear is currently being held without bail in a Colorado Springs jail, and police will hopefully be able to get a clear statement of motive from the suspect.