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Planned Parenthood: Newark and Nationwide

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Prasanna Tati

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Planned Parenthood: Newark and Nationwide

By Prasanna Tati, staff writer

This Thanksgiving weekend was met with tragedy as a lone gunman walked into a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood with a gun and “items” (as described by officials) suspected to be explosives and opened fire, killing three people and injuring nine others. He exchanged fire with police, before they advanced close enough to have a yelled conversation with him. The shooter promptly surrendered thereafter.

Of the three people killed, one was Garrett Swasey, a six year veteran of the University of Colorado police force of the Colorado Springs campus. The other two victims remain unnamed, but are likely patients or caretakers; Planned Parenthood reported that its staff is “safe”. Of the nine people injured, five are police officers and four are civilians, all are expected to make a full recovery with medical aid.

The shooter was 57 year old Robert Lewis Dear who is originally from the Carolinas and only registered to vote in Colorado Springs a year prior to the shooting. His motives for moving to Colorado Springs or even attacking Planned Parenthood are currently unknown. Police did note that the clinic was a site of frequent anti-abortion protests this summer, though it is unknown whether Dear was a part of these demonstrations.

Though this attack has garnered extensive social and political attention, it is not the first of its kind. In fact, this summer, numerous instances of arsons, protests, and vandalism have been reported at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation.

The FBI recognized this surge in pro-life activism after a group of pro-life activists, meaning those opposing abortion, called CMP or the Center for Medical Progress went on a sting operation and secretly recorded and released footage of Planned Parenthood employees answering the incognito activists’ questions about the fate of fetal tissue after an abortion. The footage can be found on Youtube totaling over 12 hours, and exposing Planned Parenthood’s apparent motivation behind abortion services: profit.

The videos began to edge into the national spotlight as images of fetal tissue and body parts were shown to be handled as “products” on sale for researchers. According to David Daleidin, a journalist and CMP member, the videos display the utter disregard for human life and the suffering of Planned Parenthood employees as they are burdened with the task of manipulating a late-term fetus to suit the “order”.

Within two weeks of the videos’ release, over four arsons and many protests were recorded in Planned Parenthoods throughout the country. And within those two weeks, multiple sources including The Vox, a news site, discovered that the videos were heavily edited; 10-15 minutes chunks are lost throughout the series. CMP officials were asked for the missing footage or a so-called “full footage” video series. They threw up empty hands, claimed the chunks were just bathroom breaks, and never released the missing footage.

For many, the controversy brought back to light a disturbing case from the early 2000s of the Laci Peterson trial. Laci Peterson was found dismembered and emptied of her organs in a lake and her pre-term son, Connor, was found dead in the park nearby. Peterson’s husband, Scott, was charged with the first degree murder of his wife and second degree murder of his prenatal son. As a result of this case, the Unborn Victims of Violence or “Laci & Connor’s Law” was passed. The law recognizes a child in utero, defined as “a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb”, as a victim of over 60 listed violent acts.

The entire legal issue with the footage is that it is illegal to sell fetal body parts or tissue for profit. Interestingly, in one of the videos, a Planned Parenthood employee says, “Our goal, like I said, is to give patients the option without impacting our bottom line. The message is: this should not be seen as some revenue stream, because that’s not what it is.”

The videos especially disturbed pro-life Republican politicians who urged Congress to open an investigation on Planned Parenthood. To date, the investigation has found no evidence against Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, in order to quell any cries of misogyny, Republicans selected Jodi Ernst to be the face of a new bill aiming to defund Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood receives over $500 million in federal funding, but that makes up only about 40% of its budget. This 40% is mainly utilized for cancer screenings, STD screenings, and contraceptives. Only about 3% of its non-governmental funding (it is against the law for the government to endorse abortion) is used for abortions.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would leave millions of men and women without proper reproductive healthcare. The majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are focused on providing contraceptives and screenings for STDs and cancer. Over half of all Planned Parenthood centers are located in rural areas or areas of need where reproductive healthcare cannot be found anywhere else. If Planned Parenthood was defunded and dismantled, there is no formidable second-in-line organization that provides all of the services to the extent and with the quality that Planned Parenthood does.

In the Ernst bill, it was unclear where funding would be redirected and so Congress did not vote to pass the bill. The Obama administration vowed not to pass the Ernst Bill or defund Planned Parenthood as President Obama stated, “When they talk about cutting off your funding, let’s be clear. They’re talking about telling many of those women, ‘you’re on your own’.”

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains released a statement on the shooting saying, “extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country.” This followed a report that violent pro-life activism increased nine-fold following the release of the videos.

A service like Planned Parenthood that offers millions of people every day with proper reproductive healthcare has a plethora of unsung accomplishments including a reduction in unwanted pregnancies and an increase in disease awareness and prevention. No investigations, to date, have found any debilitating evidence against the operations of Planned Parenthood, yet violent pro-life activism has taken the lives of innocent people.

Many students might be unaware that there is a Planned Parenthood clinic just a few short blocks from campus where students and residents of Newark most often go for contraceptives and STD screenings. Without it, people would have to travel further for these important services; consequently, some may choose not to “go through the trouble” and thus put themselves at risk for STDs and unwanted pregnancies. This clinic and any other Planned Parenthood clinic in the country could potentially be dangerous if pro-life activists decide to turn to firearms or other violent means of protest. Even this potential for danger may deter members of the Newark community from seeking out proper reproductive healthcare; the consequences of this, as mentioned before, include increased risk for STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and unsafe abortion services.

In the spirit of peaceful protest, President Obama urges all activists, “I want you to be firm and clear and I want you to protect people who may not have voices themselves. I want you also to be able to listen… part of your ability to bring about change is going to be by engagement and understanding the viewpoints and the arguments of the other side.”