Cecile Richards, national president of Planned Parenthood, spoke at a Saturday rally in the wake of the Colorado Springs mass shooting and a Republican attempt to defund and destroy the organization. Photo credit: Marianne Goodland
Security was tight at a Saturday Planned Parenthood rally, part of a national show of solidarity after the Nov. 27 shooting at a Colorado Springs clinic, in which three were killed and another nine were injured.
Even before that rampage, the organization had been under attack from protesters screaming outside clinics at patients, and lawmakers calling the health provider barbaric and accusing doctors of selling babies’ body parts.
The public was invited to the rally — but only if they pre-registered. A half-dozen police officers from Cherry Hills Village stood on guard. Organizers feared anti-abortion protestors would sabotage the gathering — perhaps launching another violent attack. But protesters stayed home.
The event took place alongside 50 others across the United States.
Cecile Richards, national president of Planned Parenthood, led the Saturday morning gathering at First Plymouth Congregational Church in Englewood. She read a statement of support from President Barack Obama, who said he shared the organization’s heartbreak over the Colorado Springs tragedy.
“Too often, these acts of violence are attempts to silence our voices, generate fear,” he said, saying the event was an “affirmation that we are not afraid” and that “we stand tougher against violence that seeks to divide us…No woman, no American, should fear violence or intimidation when seeking health care, or assisting others in obtaining treatment.”
The first four rows in the church sanctuary were reserved for staff of the Colorado Springs clinic that was the site of the Nov. 27 shooting.
Among those at Saturday’s gathering were some who called on Republicans and other anti-abortion advocates to tamp down the rhetoric around the abortion issue and to stop the attacks on the clinics.
People deserve health care without threats of violence, said Crisanta Aguilar of COLOR, a Colorado organization that supports reproductive rights for Latinas. Health care is a fundamental human right, and Planned Parenthood plays an important role in providing that care, she said.
“I am deeply saddened when innocent people in our community are under attack for providing care to the communities who need it the most.”
She also said she also is concerned about “the climate that has led to this violence, inspired in part by the false allegations made about abortion providers,” allegations made both in Congress and in Colorado’s state legislature.
Last month, the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, an unofficial group of two dozen of the legislature’s most conservative members, held a day-long hearing on Planned Parenthood that included a video from the Center for Medical Progress, which alleged the organization was illegally trafficking in “baby body parts.” That language was echoed by Robert Lewis Dear, Jr., who is alleged to have committed the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs less than three weeks later.
Congressional Republicans have conducted three investigations in the videos, but to date not one of those investigations have found any illegal activity. At least Another five states, including “red” states like Indiana and Florida, have launched investigations. They, too, have not found evidence of illegal activity.
Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said to those lawmakers, “Talk to your sisters, your daughters, your cousins and the women around you. Understand how many people come to Planned Parenthood for services. Open your heart with compassion.”
The murders aren’t stopping some Republicans from keeping up their efforts to find any state official who will investigate Planned Parenthood for its alleged trafficking in body parts and shut down the organization.
Colorado’s Attorney General, Republican Cynthia Coffman, has turned down a request to investigate Planned Parenthood, deferring to the state Department of Public Health and Environment. The department’s director, Larry Wolk, did not testify in the Nov. 9 hearing, nor did Planned Parenthood.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, who led the Nov. 9 Republican Study Committee trial of Planned Parenthood, used a Joint Budget Committee hearing last week to again request a state investigation of Planned Parenthood.
Lundberg has yet to issue any kind of public statement of sympathy for the victims of the Nov. 27 shooting.
Lumberg told KLZ-radio earlier in November that he wouldn’t hesitate to use subpoena power to compel witnesses to testify on the fetal tissue issue during the legislative session that begins in January. Lundberg has that authority as chair of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.
Lundberg used the Dec. 1 budget hearing for the Department of Public Health and Environment to question Wolk about Planned Parenthood.
According to a CDPHE budget document, the department investigated the Center for Medical Progress video to see if there was any violation of state law that bans fetal tissue trafficking. After reviewing the video, the department found the footage did not reference fetal tissue transfers occurring in Colorado and ended the investigation.
Lundberg said he found the written response puzzling, and he questioned Wolk about it. Wolk reiterated that the department reviewed more than five hours of video and found no connection to Colorado.
That answer didn’t satisfy Lundberg, who put Wolk on notice that he would continue to pursue the discussion when the General Assembly convenes next month. Wolk said he would be happy to meet with Lundberg or anyone else “in the appropriate setting and at the appropriate time.”