After the fatal November 27 shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood health care facility, The Washington Post's Dana Milbank called out prominent conservative media figures and Republican presidential candidates for their incendiary rhetoric about abortion, such as characterizing abortion providers as “subhuman killers.”
Planned Parenthood came under renewed persecution from conservatives and Republicans after the anti-abortion group Center For Medical Progress released a series of doctored videos, claiming to show Planned Parenthood officials trafficking fetal baby parts. The controversy led to multiple government investigations that have shown Planned Parenthood didn't violate laws in its donation of fetal tissue to scientific research. Since the release of the Center for Medical Progress' videos, the FBI warned of increased attacks on reproductive health care facilities. This “uptick” in violence occurred around the same time congressional Republicans attempted to stop all government funding of Planned Parenthood.
Milbank's November 30 opinion piece highlighted Republican candidates' calls for “outrage” and conservative media figures comparing Planned Parenthood to Nazis after the release of the deceptively edited CMP videos, warning that unhinged individuals may use this rhetoric as “justification to contemplate the unspeakable”:
In one sense, I agree with Cruz. The antiabortion movement did not kill those three people in Colorado Springs. The one responsible is the deranged gunman himself. But it's a different matter to ask whether the often-violent imagery used by conservative leaders on abortion is unwittingly giving the unhinged some perverse sense of justification to contemplate the unspeakable.
Just days before the shooting, Cruz trumpeted an endorsement from an antiabortion activist who once called killing an abortion doctor a “justifiable defensive action” and who leads a group, Operation Rescue, where a colleague did prison time for a conspiracy to bomb an abortion clinic.
The activist whose endorsement Cruz celebrated, Troy Newman, is also on the board of the Center for Medical Progress, which made the surreptitious Planned Parenthood videos that prompted Cruz and many other conservatives to accuse the organization of selling “baby parts” -- the phrase Dear allegedly used.
There will always be the irrational and the unstable. But when political leaders turn disagreements into all-out war, demonize opponents as enemies and accuse those on the other side of being subhuman killers, the unbalanced can hear messages that were never intended.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who has flirted with the idea of using federal troops to block access to abortion, dismissed the Supreme Court's authority and said that we should “protect children instead of rip up their body parts and sell them like they're parts to a Buick.”
Rival Carly Fiorina said, incorrectly, that the Planned Parenthood videos showed “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.' ”
Chris Christie talked of “the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts,” while Marco Rubio asked on Twitter: “Where is all the outrage over the planned parenthood dead babies?”
Leading conservative commentators Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have likened Planned Parenthood practices to those of the Nazis, and Emily's List, an abortion rights political group, has tracked violent or apocalyptic images served up by presidential candidates: Rand Paul said he doesn't think “civilization can long endure” with abortion rights; Ben Carson likened those who have abortions to slave owners; Huckabee talked about the “holocaust” of abortion and compared the morality of Planned Parenthood to that of the Islamic State; and Rubio spoke of people being “pushed into abortions so that those tissues can be harvested and sold for a profit.”
After the Colorado shooting, Donald Trump condemned the killing but, asked by NBC's Chuck Todd if he could “understand why people might react this way” to the Planned Parenthood videos, replied: “Well, there's tremendous -- there's tremendous dislike, I can say that.”
And of course there's Cruz, who said Planned Parenthood committed “multiple felonies” and who recently signed a letter with other GOP lawmakers saying (falsely) that Margaret Sanger, a founder of the group that became Planned Parenthood, sought the “extermination” of black people.