Recently, Republicans in the House of Representatives have been pushing for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is known for providing reproductive health services, such as testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screening and prevention, and women’s services such as prenatal and breast care services. There are over 700 Planned Parenthood centers that provide such services to over 2,500,000 patients annually.
Where Republicans tend to have conflict with the organization, however, is the abortion services it performs. In 2013, for example, over 327,653 abortions were performed by the organization. Even though this amounted to only 3% of the total services they offered, it is a highly divisive issue among Americans. Even more divisive, the organization used to accept money for donated fetal tissue obtained after abortions, which they insisted was delivered to scientists in the name of research. The organization has only recently changed its policy due to moral outrage from a large part of the citizenry.
On Friday November 27, 57-year old Robert Lewis Dear went on a shooting spree at a Planned Parenthood clinic located in Colorado, resulting in the deaths of three people and leaving nine others wounded. Due to his anti-abortion sentiments, it has been suspected that this was a politically and morally-motivated crime. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers commented, “You can certainly infer what [the motive] may have been in terms of where it took place and the manner in which it took place.” Planned Parenthood President Vicki Cowart claims that Dear “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.” No matter what side of the abortion debate you fall on, this can be seen as nothing but a terrible and outrageous crime for which there is no excuse. I am personally against abortions, but no one deserves to die for deciding to get one.
Republicans cannot be blamed for this tragedy for speaking their mind and standing up for what they believe in, even though Planned Parenthood has tried to shift blame for the tragedy onto the party. Responsibility lies solely on the shoulders of the individual who committed this crime, and no one else. Criticizing an organization for doing something you disagree with on a moral level is an exercise of free speech; just because someone decides to take matters into their own hands after twisting your words and sentiments does not make you responsible for their actions. Dear is a troubled man, having been accused of domestic violence, animal cruelty, and being a ‘Peeping Tom’ in the past, and he resided alone in a small cabin in the mountains of North Carolina until this incident occurred.
Moreover, most Republicans have done nothing but criticize the actions of this man since this tragedy occurred. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) stated that “justice should be swift” against Dear for this “appalling” act. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabeestated that it was “absolutely abominable, especially to those of us in the pro-life movement because there’s nothing about any of us that would condone or any way look the other way at something like this.” Guilt by association is never an accurate or representative way of getting to the core issue at hand. Playing the blame game for political reasons is both absurd and inappropriate. Some Democrats have used this as a way to push for the disbanding of the committee investigating Planned Parenthood, for example.