By Madge Will
Photos: Murdered victims of massacre at Planned Parenthood in Colorado include young mother, Iraq War veteran, and police officer
December 1, 2015 (San Diego)—Victims of the latest mass shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic weren’t abortion doctors or patients. Ke’Arre Marcell Stewart, an Iraq War veteran, had just learned he was about be a father for the third time. Jennifer Markovsky, a young mother of two, came to support a friend. Garrett Swasey, a police officer who responded to the attack, also died. Another dozen were injured by bullets fired randomly, some outside the clinic’s walls.
All who have spewed hate under the guise of “pro-life” share blame for the loss of those three innocent lives.
These young people's futures were snuffed out by a deranged gunman who was likely incited to violence by the hateful rhetoric of politicians, religious zealots and media personalities vilifying Planned Parenthood and all who work there or come seeking healthcare services.
What ignited such rage in the gunman, who has been identified by police as 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear?
The gunman’s ex-wife has described him as a conservative and a Christian who believes abortion is wrong. A loner who lived in a shack without indoor plumbing, he has a history of violence and run-ins with the law ranging from shooting a neighbor’s dog to peeping Tom charges, but has never been convicted of a crime. He is now charged with murder.
Witnesses told investigators that he ranted “no more baby parts” during the shooting, a clear reference to debunked videos that showed Planned Parenthood discussing fetal tissue for stem cell research. Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing. (Of course if wrongdoing did occur, the individuals involved should be held accountable. But screaming for the shutdown of hundreds of clinics across America serving poor women is clearly wrong, too.)
But Dear is far from alone. Violence, harassment and threats of attacks against abortion providers have shot up nine-fold since the videos were released, Mother Jones magazine reports, so clearly there is a cause and effect.
The videos made by an anti-abortion group have been proven to be heavily edited, containing misleading imagery of a miscarried fetus that was not aborted and inflammatory statements by an anti-abortion activist without a shred of evidence to support claims made.
Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, confronted with proof that a scene she described did not exist in the videos, refused to concede her error. What if she had just admitted she was wrong, and defused the hate she fomented?
Forgotten among all the hateful rhetoric are the women and their families being victimized. Never mind that federal funds are already blocked for abortions. The Republican Party is virtually unified in seeking to defund Planned Parenthood completely. They want to shut down all the clinics, everywhere.
But if they’re so concerned with being “pro life”, shouldn’t they be concerned with how many women will lose their lives if they can’t get cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, the only affordable option for poor women in many areas? How many cases of breast cancer, or cervical cancer will be missed without mammograms or Pap smears that Planned Parenthood provides?
How about women seeking contraception to control their family size? If access to contraception is blocked, won’t that mean even more unwanted pregnancies? Will women and their partners die of sexually transmitted diseases that go untreated, too, if low-cost clinics are closed down?
As for women who actually are seeking abortions, please tell me where in the Bible it says that life begins at conception. Even if you can find such a passage, that’s a religious viewpoint held by some Christians, but it’s by no means a belief held by every person of every religion. Why should zealots be allowed to make life-altering decisions for all women and their families?
If someone else's religion teaches that it's a sin for a woman to show her face, or for a man to be uncircumcised, or for anyone to eat shellfish or pork, should they be able to force you to follow their beliefs? That sounds an awful lot like ISIS or the Taliban to me.
Pregnancy is an enormously life-changing event, from carrying a baby for nine months to the many thousands of dollars needed to give birth, than a six-figure commitment to raise the child to adulthood. For a poor woman struggling to put food on the table for children she already has, that burden may be overwhelming.
I can already hear the zealots out there, thinking women are sluts who should just keep their legs closed. First off, many abortions are sought by married women. Moreover, not everyone believes that sex is only for procreation. (Not even most Catholics, who nearly all use birth control.)
Every single birth control method fails sometimes. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, condoms fail 18% of the time, birth control pills used correctly fail 9% of the time, and diaphragms 9%. One of the most effective methods, the IUD, has less than a 1% failure rate, but it’s opposed by anti-abortion zealots because it prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.
Let’s stop using the euphemism “pro life” and call this movement what it really is: forced birth. Several presidential candidates and many members of Congress don’t support a single exception to their anti-abortion stances – not even to save the life of a mother or protect a little girl who has been raped by a relative.
What if a woman has breast cancer and needs chemotherapy and radiation to save her life?
What if she has other children and fears leaving them motherless?
What if she’s raped and doesn’t want to raise a rapist’s baby – a gene pool many would argue should NOT be perpetuated?
What if having a baby will mean dropping out of college and dooming her to low-wage work in perpetuity? What if having one more child will mean not being able to put her existing children through college?
What if her husband has left her and she has to work fulltime to support her kids? The same zealots who oppose abortion tend to also oppose providing paid maternity leave for new mothers—something every other civilized nation on earth already does.
What if the mother takes anti-psychotic medication and would be a danger to others if she must go off the medications due to pregnancy? What if she was on medication that can cause serious birth defects when she became pregnant accidentally?
What if her baby is found by an ultrasound to have no brain stem? Or other serious abnormalities that cannot ever be fixed? What hateful people want to condemn a woman to carry a doomed fetus to full term, knowing it will die within hours after delivery and be a vegetable until then?
What if a 10 year old rape victim is too physically small to safely give birth and must be cut open via Ceasarean section--victimizing her yet again? What on earth makes these zealots believe they have a right to play God with other people’s lives—putting the lives, health and safety of women at risk?
Most abortions are done in the early weeks, when a fetus is only a few cells that haven’t yet developed nerve endings to feel pain. Yet the zealots believe a microscopic mass of cells should have more rights than an adult woman, her husband or partner, and their family, from the moment the sperm hits the egg.
I am sick of seeing women vilified for making heart-wrenching choices among bad options under the most difficult of circumstances. Spewing the rhetoric of hate against women who visit Planned Parenthood and the doctors who work there is endangering the lives of all of them--and also their husbands, friends and family, like those gunned down by the maniac in Colorado.
The next victim just could be someone you know – your sister, daughter, mother or coworker who has stopped in for a pregnancy test, cancer screening, birth control information, family counseling, or simply to accompany a friend in need. Stop villifying all women who visit Planned Parenthood as evil.
I myself, as a young impoverished married woman, visited Planned Parenthood for birth control. We lived in a small town with no other affordable medical clinic. A doctor there found signs of cervical cancer. Do you want women like me to just die for lack of care?
If you are repeating the vile falsehoods promulgated against Planned Parenthood, and further, vilifying all women seeking abortions for any reason as evil, or even those visiting Planned Parenthood for services other than abortion, then you share in the guilt when an unstable individual picks up a gun to kill and maim people there.
The blood of innocent people is on your hands. Young mothers and fathers whose children will grow up without their parents. Shouldn’t their lives matter at least as much as the unborn you profess to protect?
The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine.