Planned Parenthood officials on Sunday blamed the “hateful speech” of conservative lawmakers and Republican presidential contenders for contributing to Friday’s deadly shooting at a Colorado clinic, but conservatives said the left is trying to use the tragedy for political gain and to again push for gun control measures.
While many details surrounding the shooting remain unclear, 57-year-old suspect Richard Dear may have been motivated by Planned Parenthood’s sale of fetal organs. The issue came to light earlier this year when undercover videos showed organization officials haggling over organ prices, though Planned Parenthood officials have said the videos were heavily edited.
But critics — including Republican presidential candidates and many lawmakers — latched on to the issue and have used it as part of a broader case to scrap all federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
The constant criticism, Planned Parenthood says, may have motivated Mr. Dear.
“We’ve experienced so much hateful language, hateful speech,” Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “I think politicians have been in that conversation, and I mean, you know that the airwaves are full of anti-abortion language, of anti-Planned Parenthood accusations, much of which is false in nature … the tirades against Planned Parenthood in the last few months have really been over the top.”
Ms. Cowart said that the gunman was unable to get through a locked door leading to the main area of the facility. He ultimately surrendered to police after an hourslong standoff, but not before killing three people.
SEE ALSO: Ke’Arre Stewart, Jennifer Markovsky victims in Planned Parenthood Colorado shooting
Officer Garrett Swasey was identified quickly as one of the fatalities, and authorities named the other two people killed Sunday.
The Denver Post reported that Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, was a Texas native and an Army veteran who served in Iraq. His wife told KKTV that he left behind two children “whose lives will never be the same.”
Family members of Jennifer Markovsky told HawaiiNewsNow.com that she was at the Planned Parenthood clinic supporting a friend. On Facebook Ms. Markovsky’s father, John Ah King, mourned his daughter by posting, “Life was too short for my beloved daughter. I was waiting to see you soon.”
Nine other people were hospitalized after the shooting, according to The Associated Press.
After being taken into custody, Mr. Dear reportedly said “no more baby parts,” leading Ms. Cowart and others to conclude that organ sales, and conservatives’ focus on the issue, likely motivated the shooter.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called the attack “a form of terrorism” and warned against “inflammatory rhetoric.”
But Republicans shot back and said liberals will try — or, are already trying — to use the tragedy to demonize anyone who opposes abortion, public funding for Planned Parenthood or the sale of baby parts.
“Anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or anyone who opposes the sale of body parts is [applying] typical left-wing tactics,” 2016 GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” program, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson condemned extremism on both sides of the debate and said the political left deserves equal blame for creating an atmosphere of hostility.
“Unfortunately, there is a lot of extremism coming from all areas,” Mr. Carson said. “It’s one of the biggest problems that I think is threatening to tear our country apart. We get into our separate corners and we hate each other and we want to destroy those with whom we disagree. That comes from both sides, so there’s no saint here in this equation.”
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Mr. Dear is “an extremist” and “sick,” but he acknowledged the anger toward Planned Parenthood that may have driven him to action.
“I see a lot of anxiety, and I see a lot of dislike for Planned Parenthood, there’s no question about that,” Mr. Trump said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
The Center for Medical Progress, which produced the Planned Parenthood videos that have been front-page news for months, denounced the “barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman” and said its members were praying for the dead, the wounded and their families.
Colorado Springs police said in a statement Sunday that they are sealing all warrants related to the case, which likely will increase the speculation and political debate.
The statement said police are building their case and will not disclose why the gunman opened fire, provide information on the weapon or release a timeline of events.
Mr. Dear’s first court appearance is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the incident also has once again thrust the issue of gun control into the national spotlight, with President Obama saying the shooting should spur Congress to action to restrict who has access to firearms.
“Enough is enough,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal. … We don’t yet know what this particular gunman’s so-called motive was for shooting 12 people, or for terrorizing an entire community, when he opened fire with an assault weapon and took hostages at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado. What we do know is that he killed a cop in the line of duty, along with two of the citizens that police officer was trying to protect. We know that law enforcement saved lives, as so many of them do every day, all across America. And we know that more Americans and their families had fear forced upon them.”
Mr. Obama repeatedly has made the case for gun control in the wake of mass shootings, but his push continually has stalled on Capitol Hill.
⦁ Jennifer Pompi contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.