Planned Parenthood Shooter Kills Three, So Why Isn't He A ‘Terrorist’?
The Debrief: A man killed three and injured eight at a family planning clinic in Colorado Springs at the weekend…
This weekend, after months of anti-abortion rhetoric across the US, from TV stations to politicians and online ‘pro-lifers’, a gunman went into a Planned Parenthood (PP) clinic in Colorado Springs and shot at the people inside. Three people were killed, and nine were injured at the family planning clinic, which offers things from pap smears to breast cancer scans, contraception and safe and legal abortions.
While PP quickly asserted the shooter was ‘motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion’, Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned the shooting, saying it was ‘a crime against women receiving healthcare services at Planned Parenthood.’
A petition has been set up to lobby prosecutors to charge alleged shooter Robert Dear as a ‘domestic terrorist’ on top of the first-degree murder charge he faces in court. It has 33,000 signatories, but it seems unlikely he will be referred to as a ‘terrorist’. This is despite the clarity of his motives: he targeted the PP clinic but not a nearby beauty salon or bank, and he also shouted out ‘no more baby parts’.
Let’s explain the baby parts thing. In July, the misleadingly named Center for Medical Progress (CMP for short, and it’s actually an anti-abortion group) leaked edited videos that ‘prove’ that PP has been selling foetal tissue for profit. The footage appeared to show a PP employee casually eating salad while talking about the foetal tissue sales, the implication being that the organisation encourages women to abort so it can profiteer from the ‘baby parts’.
The reality? PP has never made a profit from the sale of foetal tissue, which goes to stem cell research into curing diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimers. It has since stopped taking any sort of reimbursement for the exchange of foetal tissue.
This hasn’t stopped Congress from investigating PP, and increased efforts to limit women’s access to abortion services – and all of the other services PP offer. Since July, several bills have been tabled to defund PP, and six states have de-funded the organisation, leaving it potentially struggling to administer the life-saving procedures they offer to both men and women across America.
On top of this, various candidates for the Republican presidential nomination have gone to great lengths to discredit PP. Ben Carson, who’s been in the lead at various points of the race, called for a ban on abortion in all circumstances following the CMP’s video release. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, whom he’s been tying with, has called PP an ‘abortion factory’.
And this is what’s stopping the Colorado Springs attack – and all the other attacks on abortion clinics, like three incidents of arson since July, and the attacks on abortion providers killing at least 11 people since 1993 – from being counted as ‘terrorist’ attacks.
Because while this sort of attack certainly fits the US Code of Federal Regulations as: ‘the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives’, Robert Dear’s objectives are far too similar to the status quo to be considered ‘terrorism’.
As PP put it, this attack didn’t happen in a vacuum, there’s a precedent for this type of anti-abortion violence, and a culture that encourages it. ‘We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country,’ it said.
Sadly, the latest attack can be directly linked to another attack, one President Obama called ‘an act of racial terrorism’, after Dylann Roof, a white gunman, killed nine black church-goers in an historic Charleston church earlier this year. Dylan had a manifesto which proved his racist credentials, just in case the photos of him wearing garb with the Rhodesian flag on it didn’t quite indicate his motives.
And just like Robert Dear – who has previously been charged for rape – who has been called a ‘protestor’ and an ‘oddball loner’, Roof was written off as a ‘lone wolf’ in the press and by American politicians. Both seem to be desperate to distance themselves from the hateful acts these men have committed.
This is while a Muslim boy is suing a school for having him arrested on suspicion of terrorism after his science project was mistaken for a bomb. And innocent black people killed by police in extra-judicial shootings are called ‘demons’, those protesting their deaths ‘thugs’.
The problem is, words really do have traction, and these extremists have seen their own hate not only echoed but bolstered by statements made by the right-wing mainstream. No anti-abortioner running for presidential candidacy will admit that their words have stoked these self-regarded vigilantes’ actions. This is despite the very same people asking all Muslims to apologise for the acts of a few Islamist extremists all the way over in Paris.
While Donald Trump's first statement on the PP shootings was that Robert Dear is ‘a maniac’, he has also said all Muslims should be tracked, following the Isis attacks in Paris. As for Ted Cruz? He wanted to ban all Syrian refugees from entering the country in case one is a terrorist, but insists that our knowledge of Dear’s motivations is so limited, he could be a ‘transgendered leftist’.
In the UK and US, acts of terrorism carry longer sentences than other sorts of attacks, including murder. But it seems as if the requirement to become a ‘terrorist’ is so much more – or less – than shooting a bunch of people to further your own murderously selfish ideas of what is wrong or right.
There comes a point where we have to ask how much Robert Dear’s position in life – as a person whose opinions so closely ally with those in the running to become actual President of the United States of America – has excused him from being treated like the terrorist thug he truly is.
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