The Washington Post gave life to the idea that free speech is to blame for the recent Planned Parenthood shooting in a piece Monday headlined: “Abortion rights groups: Political rhetoric contributed to shooting.”
These groups say the use of tough language to describe Planned Parenthood’s practice of distributing aborted fetal organs to researchers created an environment that contributed to Robert Lewis Dear Jr.’s decision to open fire in a Colorado clinic Friday. WaPo aired their allegations uncritically, except to point out that no motive has been established in the shooting.
In the wake of shocking videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s practice of harvesting and distributing fetal tissue, congressional efforts to defund the organization have led to “passionate commentary” that is “sharply critical of Planned Parenthood,” WaPo social change reporter Sandhya Somashekhar writes. Pro-abortion groups say the “tone” of that criticism “put clinic workers and patients at risk” and is partially responsible for Dear’s actions.
“Too many abortion rights advocates, it seemed only a matter of time before something like this happened,” Somashekhar wrote in the lead sentence.
When the Center for Medical Progress began releasing the undercover footage, the non-profit and its supporters, in and out of the media, quickly emphasized the physical threat they say the footage posed to their staff, and adopted other talking points aimed at shifting the conversation away from the content of the criticism. The videos show top Planned Parenthood doctors callously discussing the best way to harvest aborted fetal organs, pictured both haggling over the price and actually picking apart an aborted fetus.
WaPo gave credit to this line of thinking in the piece, implying that it’s out of bounds to criticize Planned Parenthood because it might contribute to armed attacks.
“Politicians need to stop escalating the rhetoric against Planned Parenthood, and that means by and large the Republican Party,’’ pro-abortion consultant Laura Chapin told WaPo. “Right-wing politicians need to back off.”
“They have ignited a firestorm of hate,” added Vicki Saporta, National Abortion Federation President. “They knew there could be these types of consequences, and yet they ratcheted up the rhetoric and ratcheted it up and ratcheted it up.”
The piece includes statements from pro-life groups and politicians who have condemned the shooting, but Somashekhar does not dispute or criticize the pro-abortion groups’ claim that loudly opposing Planned Parenthood indirectly threatens the lives of its staff members.
“Strict security measures have become the norm at abortion clinics, which often have bulletproof glass, surveillance systems, security guards and volunteer escorts to usher patients through a gantlet of antiabortion demonstrators,” she writes, bolstering the claims. “Staff members are advised to keep unlisted phone numbers and to vary their commutes.”
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