- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

DENVER – If you were asked to list critics of Planned Parenthood, Rep. Mike Coffman wouldn’t likely be the first Colorado Republican whose name leaps to mind, given that the congressional delegation includes adamantly pro-life Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn.

On the other hand, their seats are safe. Mr. Coffman’s isn’t. That may explain why Planned Parenthood supporters zeroed in on Mr. Coffman at a Tuesday press conference here aimed at blaming Republican “lies” for “creating the toxic environment that resulted in Friday’s mass shooting.”

“Today we call on right-wing politicians across the state and the nation to stop their false attacks on Planned Parenthood and to apologize for the lies that are directly contributing to the politically motivated violence in America today,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms.

Organizers held up three large signs outside the state capitol with quotes from three Republicans: Mr. Coffman, state Sen. Tim Neville and state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt. Mr. Neville is running for the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016.

Not mentioned was Mr. Lamborn, a leading Planned Parenthood critic who represents the Colorado Springs district in which the shooting occurred, fueling the Republican contention that Planned Parenthood backers are exploiting Friday’s tragedy for political gain.

“They also ought to be ashamed to pull this kind of a stunt in the aftermath of such a tragedy,” said former Colorado Republican Party chair Dick Wadhams.

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“Their targets are pretty obvious,” Mr. Wadhams said. “They’re targeting a congressman who’s in an intense re-election battle, and one of the many Republican candidates for U.S. Senate. That speaks for itself.”

The rally, sponsored by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado and ProgressNow, was intended to “name names” of Colorado Republicans who have engaged in “incendiary rhetoric that could motivate unstable persons to commit violent acts,” according to the press release.

Ms. Runyon-Harms listed state legislators who serve on the Republican Study Committee, which held what she called a “sham hearing” last month on Planned Parenthood.

Among the speakers was Leslie Herod, a Democratic primary candidate for a state House seat in Denver, who compared the Friday shooting to a 2007 incident at the state capitol.

“Both incidents were perpetrated by white men who desperately needed mental health services Both men were fighting against progressive ideals like choice,” said Ms. Herod, who said she was shopping with her mother across the street from the clinic when the shooting began.

The three signs referred to statements made earlier this year after the release of undercover interviews with Planned Parenthood officials by the Center for Medical Progress.

Mr. Neville’s quote said, “Some of the most disgusting videos of Planned Parenthood murdering, cutting to pieces and selling unborn baby parts were filmed right here in Denver, Colorado.” Mr. Klingenschmitt’s referred to the “demonic spirit of murder.”

Mr. Coffman’s quote was tame by comparison: “We should fund critical women’s services in a way that doesn’t fly in the face of human decency.” He was also accused in the press release of using Planned Parenthood as a “political football.”

In a Tuesday statement, Mr. Coffman said that he was “deeply offended that anyone would try to exploit this horrific incident purely for political gain.”

“Both sides should knock off the partisan games and name-calling,” Mr. Coffman said. “It is beneath the dignity of our state and country, and a grave disservice to the victims. A horrible tragedy has happened in our state. Our focus should be on the victims, and honoring their lives and supporting their families.”

The motive of the shooting suspect, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear Jr., is still unknown, although one official reportedly said that he used the phrase “no more baby parts” in an interview with investigators.

The shooting, which left three dead and nine injured, prompted House Democrats to demand Tuesday that House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, disband the special committee set up to investigate Planned Parenthood.

Instead, the Democrats said the House should investigate the easy accessibility that gun control advocates blame for mass shootings.

New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat, said women deserve “freedom and safety and security” in their health care, and should not be worried about somebody coming into a clinic with a gun seeking to do harm in the name of pro-life activism.

“We need to do things like set up a select committee on looking at the proliferation of gun safety so that women and anybody seeking their rights to access health care aren’t frightened simply because Congress isn’t doing its job,” she said.

Mental health is an issue that needs to be addressed, said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat, but when it came to the Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic shooting, it was better gun control that would have prevented the tragedy.

“There’s the issue of how we create a better infrastructure to provide mental health services, but I think the idea that we would be able to prevent everyone from going into a Planned Parenthood clinic or into a movie theater if only we would do something about mental health is just not realistic,” she said.

Stephen Dinan and Anjali Shastry contributed to this report from Washington.

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