Malign Hesitation

Caution in the light of factual uncertainty is almost always a laudable stance for journalists and public officials. But from the beginning of yesterday’s attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs there’s been an odd reluctance to state what appears to be obvious: that the attacker, now identified as 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, was motivated by extremist anti-abortion politics. The Denver Post headline states “Planned Parenthood shootings increasingly seem politically motivated” – and this after numerous accounts state that Dear was ranting about “no more baby parts” after his arrest, almost certainly a reference to the incitement earlier this fall over a doctored anti-Planned Parenthood sting video. Let’s remember, false claims and incitement about selling “body parts” were a staple of Fox News segments and tirades from Republican presidential candidates all through the fall.

What also has me curious is that Colorado Springs is widely known as something of a Mecca for evangelicals and high profile right-wing Christian organizations like Focus on the Family. One of the murder victims in this case was a police officer. And there has been zero indication that the authorities were anything less than aggressive in responding to the attack. But it would stand to reason – indeed, hardly be surprising – that some level of awkwardness or tension might arise as the parties involved respond to an attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in a city dominated by anti-abortion politics.

For now it simply seems worth saying what appears transparently obvious, if downplayed in the local press, which is that this was the latest instance of anti-abortion rights terrorism in the country and appears directly linked to the incitement stemming from false claims about Planned Parenthood being involved in the trafficking of body parts from aborted fetuses. You can, if you’re inclined, add here all manner of arch comments about the great majority of right-wing Christians opposing anti-abortion terrorism. But let’s call this what it is.

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