A gunman opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic on Friday Nov. 27, killing three and wounding nine. The gunman has been identified as 57-year-old North Carolina-native Robert Lewis Dear. The attack has sparked controversy regarding both gun control and women’s rights.
In the wake of this tragedy, many news sources have been hesitant when discussing the nature of this crime and what may have motivated it. The sources have discussed gun control policy and Dear’s history. According to CNN, it’s “too early” for law officials to comment on what motivated this crime. President Barack Obama has used the shooting to further a discussion regarding the need for stricter gun control. Pro-life conservative presidential candidate Mike Huckabee considers the events an issue of domestic terrorism.
What no one seems to want to discuss is that this shooting is a direct attack on women and their right to bodily autonomy. While Dear’s state of mental health is still somewhat vague, it is evident that this crime was primarily motivated by a society that promotes violence against women—a society in which women’s bodies are objects that can be controlled by policy.
Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains CEO and president Vicki Cowart made a statement in which she went beyond the vague reporting of mainstream news, stating that Dear was “motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.”
During his arrest, Dear was quoted as saying, “No more baby parts.” Many people are speculating that Dear suffered from mental illness and a history of violence, looking to his past with domestic violence incidents as an explanation. While these issues are motivating factors in Dear’s acts, his violence would never have manifested itself in this way had he lived in a society that did not police women’s reproductive choices.
What distinguishes this case from other instances of public shootings is location. While many mass shooting occur in random locations and target the general public, Dear made a choice when he entered the Planned Parenthood clinic. It is not a coincidence that this is where he chose to perform such a horrifying act of violence. Planned Parenthood clinics are consistently targets by vandalism, terrorism and protests.
What makes this tragedy particularly difficult for news sources and politicians alike to discuss is the nature of the crime. The mentality that went into such an act of violence requires a restructuring of our mindset as a society, rather than a simple infrastructural change to our nation’s policies and laws. The idea of allowing women complete bodily autonomy has been a debate for centuries, one that is coming to a head as Planned Parenthood continues to face defunding.
The pro-choice versus pro-life debate doesn’t seem to be going away. Unfortunately, violent crimes such as the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic shooting will only continue as long as women are punished for making choices regarding their reproductive health.
While Obama’s comments regarding gun control are certainly logical and a necessary call to action, they are a small part of a solution regarding a much deeper issue. Until we can completely change the way we view women and their bodies, instances of extremism will continue in attempts to maintain oppression.