A shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday afternoon has left three people dead and several others injured. Details remain scarce about the motivations of the shooter, identified as 57-year-old Robert Dear. But, thanks to the historical legacy of targets leveled at abortion providers specifically because of the work they do, violence at clinics feels particularly threatening to reproductive rights proponents.
Abortion opponents, meanwhile, have been eager to downplay the shooting — rushing to say that the violence didn’t occur inside an abortion clinic at all.
Initially, when police officers were involved in a stand-off with Dear and information about the event was murky, early reports from Fox News quoted a witness who suggested that the first shots were fired from a bank. The anti-abortion website LifeNews picked up that story, spurring the bank robbery narrative.
Though it does remain unclear whether Dear was attempting to specifically target the Colorado Springs abortion clinic, it’s not true that Planned Parenthood supporters are overreacting to an incident that happened at a bank. Police officers have confirmed that “the entire incident took place at the Planned Parenthood clinic.”
Not all right-wing leaders have dismissed the recent shooting outright, particularly as more information has emerged about the incident.
“While the investigation into the shooting at the Planned Parenthood center continues, regardless of what the motive is determined to be, we strongly condemn this violence,” Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council — which is based in Colorado Springs — said in a statement on Friday. He added that creating a nation that values all human life will be accomplished only through “peaceful means.”
And Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of RedState.com, walked back his initial comments about the shooting after it became clear that it was not actually a bank robbery. He initially tweeted, “Left upset the only people dying at Planned Parenthood today are babies. They were hoping for Christian shooters to narrative shift Paris.” Following later reports that the shooting was indeed inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, he wrote, “I deleted that tweet. Prayers for the police and victims offered instead.”
Zack Ford contributed reporting.