On November 27, a man with a gun walked into the Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, Colorado and opened fire, killing three people and wounding nine more. While the media initially reported that the man’s motives were "unclear," those of us who have long-supported and advocated for reproductive justice knew, in both our hearts and minds, that the truth would reveal this event to be domestic terrorism and a calculated attack on Planned Parenthood.
Chillingly, we have learned we were right. The Planned Parenthood assassin, we have learned from his court appearances this week, specifically asked for directions to the Planned Parenthood office and made his intentions clear from the outset.
Planned Parenthood is a target. Whether by armed terrorists or supporters of the so-called "prolife" movement, Planned Parenthood and the myriad health care services it provides is under attack.
While the overwhelming majority of providers of abortions and other women’s health services have been targeted by violent religious extremists since Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy in 1973, Planned Parenthood has, in recent months, been subjected to historic levels of hostility from groups and individuals who claim to represent "pro-life" beliefs.
In a series of deceptively-manipulated, heavily edited video clips released throughout the summer and early fall of this year, a handful of radical anti-choice operatives effectively lied to the American public about the work of Planned Parenthood. Using the name The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and underhanded tactics, a grisly but completely inaccurate narrative about the sales of "baby parts" by Planned Parenthood was fabricated in a selfish, bizarre effort to demonize the organization.
With a few snippets of secretly-recorded conversation presented without situational context, CMP fueled a renewed interest by anti-choice Republican lawmakers at both the state and federal levels to defund Planned Parenthood, though only five states’ Planned Parenthood centers make aborted fetal tissue available to research centers in exchange for reasonable procurement, processing, and transportation fees.
The CMP claims to have told "the truth" about Planned Parenthood, but they couldn’t be more wrong.
Planned Parenthood has provided essential healthcare and family planning services in the United States for ninety-eight years. Every year, more than five million men, women, and young people benefit from Planned Parenthood’s commitment to sexual health and responsible reproductive decision-making with nearly eighty-percent of those people living at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.
The bulk of Planned Parenthood’s services focus on contraception, education, and the prevention of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies. Beyond that, cancer screenings and routine gynecological care account for all but the less than 3% of Planned Parenthood visits involving abortion.
For radicals who want to strip women of the right to decide when and how to have families, Planned Parenthood is a convenient scapegoat, though less than half the abortions in the US are performed at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Physician offices, hospitals, and independent outpatient surgery centers perform the bulk of abortions, and while many of those providers find themselves in the cross-hairs of anti-choice activists and on the receiving end of physical violence, Planned Parenthood finds itself in a storm of manufactured controversy which has nothing to do with the essential services it provides.
Since the release of the CMP videos, the legislatures of eleven states have investigated the fetal handling practices of Planned Parenthood and found no wrongdoing or violation of the law. And although Tennessee’s Planned Parenthood clinics do not make fetal tissues available for research, our legislature was quick to the bandwagon in launching a costly, futile investigation.
The time has come for good people to peer through the rhetoric and say, "enough," to legislators who claim to represent freedom and individual choice while doing everything within their power to dismantle nearly a century of work by an organization whose sole mission is the improved quality of life for American families. We must look past the extremist views and grand deceptions to recognize the impact Planned Parenthood has in providing objective education and meaningful services to individuals who would otherwise fall through the cracks.
We must move beyond the abhorrence of personal choices we hope we’ll never have to make into a position of compassion for those who do, and protecting the countless individuals who receive necessary care from Planned Parenthood is a good start.