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Incorrect discourse: Why the Planned Parenthood shooting is not incitement to debate abortion

As snow fell in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Friday, Nov. 27, a gunman, armed with several weapons including assault rifles and propane tanks, opened fire in a Planned Parenthood clinic, in what would result in a five-hour standoff with police that left three dead and nine wounded.

The shooter, Robert Dear, 57, eventually surrendered to officers as he was cornered in a hallway, allegedly calling out “no more baby parts” during his arrest. While a motive for the shooting has not been officially released, most officials can agree the targeted location, and Dear’s words during arrest, speaks for itself.

In the time since the shooting, there has been an outpouring of support for the victims, one of whom was a police officer. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the shooting a “crime against women.” Hillary Clinton voiced her support for the group, saying “We should be supporting Planned Parenthood, not attacking it.”

But yet, in the aftermath of the violence and bloodshed, online users are finding innumerable ways to continue attacking the clinic, a provider of a myriad of women’s healthcare services, in addition to a small percentage of abortions.

But an appalling number of Twitter users have levied the mass shooting as an incitement to discourse on the topic of abortion, some of them calling the shooter a hero and praising him for his “brave” actions.

“I wonder how many unborn babies were save [sic] by this gunman interrupting normal Planned Parenthood activities? Just looking on the bright-side [sic],” reads one tweet by user @BryanWarner775.

“No sympathy for any pregnant female who was injured in the Planned Parenthood shooting that was there to get an abortion. She deserved it,” reads another tweet, this one from user @SlyFlyAndHigh.

“…planned parenthood [sic] kills a million babies and no one bats an eye. but 1 brave hero tries to put a stop to that, everyone loses their minds,” @rouge_th3_bat tweeted, with incorrect statistics (the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood in 2014 was just over 327,000, according to The Washington Times).

It is possible to argue for hours about the inaccuracies posed in these tweets. For starters, abortions are only three percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood, according to its 2013-2014 annual report. The majority of its services — sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment (42 percent) and contraception services (34 percent) — are too often left out of the debate. So much so that, even in the wake of the shooting, the Senate voted to federally defund Planned Parenthood in a long-standing debate over the authenticity of videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, which purported to show a Planned Parenthood employee discussing the sale of fetal tissue for profit. This, despite the fact abortions were never federally funded.

But the abortion debate has no place in regard to this mass shooting. The proper discourse is guns: gun access, gun ownership and gun control. Without taking a stance on the Second Amendment, it is entirely inappropriate to portray Dear as a hero for his actions. What Dear did was — even though we don’t like to call it what it is — an act of terror.

While it is perfectly acceptable for Dear to oppose abortion, the violence committed by him toward innocent civilians in support of his ideologies is, in fact, terrorism. This is the discussion we need to be having, there are terrorists on our own soil we need to stop. Instead, we seem too far concerned with those from away.

When 14 people were murdered by a radicalized couple who were allegedly supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in San Bernardino, Calif. on Dec. 2, politicians and civilians alike were quick to blame external terror groups. But the guns purchased by the couple were purchased legally in the U.S.

It is entirely appropriate for all people to be angry in response to both shootings. It is entirely appropriate to express this anger online, if one feels compelled to do so. However, it is not appropriate to deflect this anger onto the civilian women killed or injured, who may or may not have been at a Planned Parenthood for an abortion. It is not appropriate to justify a man’s egregious, violent and terrorist actions with pro-life ideology. We need to be more critical of this man’s actions and his methods, not the victims. And yet, that is what we are failing to do.

This incorrect discourse is not only an insult to women, it is an insult to humanity.


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