The Assault on Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs and the Film “Suffragette”
by Ann Montague
As soon as the news first broke of a gunman’s murderous assault inside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado all women knew the meaning of the attack. This was another attack on a woman’s right to abortion. But that is not how it was reported. Even as seven ambulances and the local SWAT team complete with armored vehicles rushed to the scene, the on the scene news reports were suggesting that it was a robbery at a bank next door to a “health clinic.” For some unknown reason they said he had run into the clinic. Once they started saying it was a Planned Parenthood clinic and he killed three and wounded nine persons, they quickly declared that they had absolutely no idea about the shooter’s motive. But certainly the local media remembered that Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs was the site of large anti-abortion protests over the summer after abortion opponents released secret, edited videos supposedly of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the selling of fetal organs for research. On August 22nd, the day of nationwide protests to defund Planned Parenthood, local news reports stated that more than 300 people protested outside the clinic in Colorado Springs. At the same time death threats against abortion providers rose sharply around the country and this year alone, arsonists attacked four Planned Parenthood clinics in Washington, California, Illinois and Louisiana.
Robert Lewis Dear, the man who police say staged the deadly shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic that offers abortion services said, “no more baby parts” after his arrest. Planned Parenthood reported that witnesses said the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion. An official who has been briefed on the investigation told the Washington Post that the attack was “definitely politically motivated.”
Two of those who were murdered by the gunman had accompanied friends to Planned Parenthood. KeArre Stewart, 29 was a father of 2 girls and an Iraq veteran and Jennifer Markovsky, 35 was a mother of 2 who was with a friend at the clinic. The third victim was a campus police officer Garrett Swasey.
In a press release, Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said: “It is offensive and outrageous that some politicians are now claiming this tragedy has nothing to do with the toxic environment they helped create. Even when the gunman was still inside of our health center, politicians who have long opposed safe and legal abortion were on television pushing their campaign to defund Planned Parenthood and invoking the discredited video smear campaign that reportedly fed this shooter's rage.”
The day before the attack on the clinic, Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio stated that “Roe v. Wade is law but it is not settled law.” In 2016 The Supreme Court is taking on its first abortion case in eight years. The justices announced on November 20th that they will hear arguments over a Texas law that would leave only 10 abortion clinics open across the state. The high court previously blocked parts of the Texas law.
While Republicans continued to attack Planned Parenthood, Democrats were quick to divert from abortion rights by turning to the issue of gun violence. Leading the charge was President Obama speaking not about attacks on Women’s Reproductive Rights but simply urging the nation to “do something” about the pattern of gun violence. The Democrats were deflecting the discussion from the attacks on a women’s right to abortion and birth control to using these attacks for their own political agenda of gun control and mental health services. While the Democratic Party has used the War on Women as their mantra, they have not been authentic fighters for our rights. In 1976 they passed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited the use of Medicaid money to pay for abortion services for poor women. This has occurred repeatedly when Democrats were in the majority as well as Republicans. A majority of people in the U.S. support a woman’s right to abortion and contraception. The current attacks on Planned Parenthood are assaults on all women because it is an ideological war to erode the rights won by the second wave of feminism. The way to start winning the battles of the war on women is to mobilize our numbers and not be diverted. To achieve abortion rights and birth control for every woman perhaps we could look back at history. Currently there is an excellent movie being shown around the country called “Suffragette.” It is the history of the last stage of the struggle of working women in England for the right to vote. The leader of that movement was Emmeline Pankhurst who wrote some advice for American women. While the issue was suffrage it certainly applies to a movement that demands abortion and birth control rights for all in 2016. In Pankhurst’s book, “My Own Story” she writes, “I can assure the American women that our long alliance with the great parties, our devotion to party programmes, our faithful work at elections, never advanced the suffrage cause one step. As far as I am concerned, I did not delude myself with false hopes. I was convinced of the futility of trusting in political parties. Look at how and why the agricultural labourers won their franchise. They won it by burning their hay-ricks and demonstrating their strength in the only way English politicians understand. The threat to march a hundred thousand men to the House Of Commons played its part in securing the agricultural labourer his political freedom.”
Good advice to consider as we move into the election charade next year. We need to build a movement with the strength and independence of the English working class struggle for suffrage if we want to win safe abortion and available birth control for all.