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Days After Being Attacked, Planned Parenthood Opens A New Health Clinic

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CLIFF OWEN
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CLIFF OWEN

Less than a week after a gunman opened fire in one of its clinics in Colorado, Planned Parenthood opened a new health center in California — a move that the organization’s leaders say will hopefully help communicate that they’re not going anywhere.

The new clinic in the West Hollywood area will offer the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion. Sue Dunlap, the president of Planned Parenthood’s Los Angeles-area affiliate, told a local NBC outlet that the organization “will not apologize” for offering abortion services even in the face of opposition to the procedure.

The great lengths that some people will go to demonstrate their opposition to abortion services was put into sharp relief this week in Colorado Springs. After killing three people and injuring several more, suspected gunman Robert Lewis Dear reportedly told police “no more baby parts” — an apparent reference to a discredited video campaign that accuses the women’s health organization of illegally selling fetal tissue. And recent reports suggest that Dear may have a history of anti-abortion ideology; several of his ex-wives told reporters that he has praised people who commit violence against abortion doctors and once vandalized a Planned Parenthood location.

Nonetheless, in the aftermath of the tragedy in Colorado Springs, Planned Parenthood’s main message has been that its doors will remain open for its patients. Shortly after the shooting, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards sent the following message to the group’s supporters via email:

Although West Hollywood is a very different environment than Colorado Springs — and, according to Reuters, there weren’t any anti-abortion protesters at the clinic’s grand opening on Tuesday — Planned Parenthood’s new health center opened with tight security.

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“No matter how much security we put in place hard things happen, and there’s sometimes a difference between feeling safe and being safe. And it’s our job to work to make sure people both feel safe and are safe,” Dunlap told NBC Los Angeles.

Even before the recent shooting, those type of precautions weren’t necessarily unusual. Thanks to the legacy of anti-abortion threats and harassment, clinics typically go to great lengths to protect themselves against attacks. Many of them have installed security cameras, metal detectors, and bulletproof glass. Some doctors keep bulletproof vests at work.

The specific Colorado Springs clinic that was the site of Friday’s shooting is temporarily closed as it’s rebuilt. But other Planned Parenthood clinics in Colorado and nearby Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming all continued to provide health services last weekend in the immediate aftermath of the tragic shooting.