|Protesters in Atlanta, 1991|
Police haven't released a motive for the shooting in Colorado yet or said whether the Planned Parenthood clinic was the intended target, but the shooter was a 57-year-old white male from North Carolina, the home state of Eric Rudolph, the Olympic and abortion clinic bomber, and it's widely believed that Rudolph was aided and abetted by the people of North Carolina during his years on the lam. The shooter was acting in Colorado Springs, one of the most politically conservative cities in Colorado and home to the US Air Force Academy and a bastion of fundamentalist Christianity. Colorado Springs has been called the Evangelical Vatican and the Christian Mecca. Even if the gunman's target was not Planned Parenthood, an attack on that clinic in that particular town still sends a symbolic message of "war" against women's rights and reproductive freedom along well-defined political and religious lines.
But the State of Colorado also stands as a success story for government-funded contraceptive aid. Over the past six years, Colorado’s highly successful family planning program has offered teenagers and low-income women free long-lasting birth control that prevents pregnancy over several years. From 2009 to 2013, pregnancy and abortion rates plunged by about 40 percent among teenagers across the state. As Robert Reich points out, in 2009 half of all first births to women in the poorest areas of the state occurred before they turned 21. But by 2014, half of first births did not occur until the women had turned 24, a difference that gives young women time to finish their education and obtain better jobs.
Colorado's experience shows that public investments in family planning make economic sense, because reproductive rights are also productive rights. "When women have control over their lives," Reich points out, "they can contribute even more to the economy, better break the glass ceiling, equalize the pay gap, and much more."
So it should not be surprising that far-right force and religious zealots, long opposed to women's rights and family planning, would like for us not to learn from the Colorado experience. Instead, the opponents released deliberately misleading videos, some of which were filmed in Colorado, implying that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue from abortions, and even after the videos were discredited as fraudulent, they were still discussed as fact in Congressional hearings and Presidential debates. And in yesterday's development, a Colorado clinic was attacked and at least three people killed.
As a nation, we cannot let this escalate into a full-on war against freedom of choice with attacks and counter-attacks. The hypocrisy of those who kill for the "pro-life" cause is a testament to their extremism and will be the ultimate undoing of their movement as it slides toward hatred, violence, and isolation.