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The Heart of the Pro-Life Movement Is a Heart of Compassion: A Response to Colorado

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last Friday, a deranged man opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, killing three and injuring nine. While the killer reportedly spoke of opposition to abortion at the time of his arrest, his actions are antithetical to the heart of the pro-life movement. They enrage all of us who believe in the sanctity of life at every stage, born and unborn – including the lives of those with whom we may disagree – and they have no place in our country.

The murderer behind these vicious attacks, Robert Dear, did not just take innocent life that day. With his words and his actions, he also perverted a cause that is precious to so many of us. The heart of the pro-life movement is a heart of compassion, but on Friday Americans saw hatred and violence which the media and Planned Parenthood have now wrapped under a fraudulent cloak of ‘pro-life’ beliefs.

Details on Dear’s motive are still emerging, but Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards has already linked the attack to “smear campaigns against abortion providers” and those who “put politics ahead of women’s health care.” Similarly, Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains President Vicki Cowart, lamented the “negative environment [that] has been created around the work that Planned Parenthood does, [and] around the idea of safe and legal abortion.”

Equally disappointing were the comments from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who called for the disbandment of Congress’s Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, of which I am a member. Boxer called the panel a “witch hunt against Planned Parenthood,” though Planned Parenthood is mentioned nowhere in the House resolution calling for the panel’s formation.

It is true that many of my pro-life colleagues and I have offered tough critiques of Planned Parenthood. The House of Representatives additionally passed legislation that I authored earlier this year to defund Planned Parenthood for a period of one year and reallocate those dollars to the more than 13,500 community health centers nationwide. I stand by that effort.

Planned Parenthood’s destruction of more than 327,000 unborn children each year, all while receiving more than $500 million in annual federal funding, stirs within us a sense of righteous indignation that compels us to act, but pro-lifers also know that the violence of abortion can never be combatted with more violence.

We know that every life has meaning and purpose in the eyes of our creator and is worthy of respect, so violence of any kind is an affront to our mission. Instead, we have sought to present the facts – for example, that the United States is one of only seven nations to allow elective, late-term abortions, or that premature infants are now being saved as early as 22 weeks into fetal development – and to speak the truth about abortion with grace and empathy for the women and unborn children who are victimized by this procedure.

From my years as a registered nurse, to my time in Congress, I have seen the pro-life movement from all sides. I know this effort is an act of love for the “least of these” – a movement born out of care for the vulnerable and the voiceless. Our message is stronger than the indefensible actions of one man and it must not change as a result of this callous, counterfeit ‘pro-life’ atrocity.

As we grieve the loss of innocent life from Friday’s attack and condemn this violence in the strongest terms possible, we in the pro-life community must also remain resolute in our convictions; knowing that our stance is morally just and scientifically sound. We must reject attempts to politicize a horrific tragedy and we must continue this effort as though lives depend on our success – because they do.

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