One Year After The Colorado Springs Shooting, Planned Parenthood's Work Is More Important Than Ever

2017 will the beginning of a four-year onslaught to defund the organization.

On Nov. 27, 2015, a man walked into a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs and opened fire, killing three people and injuring nine others with a semiautomatic rifle. It was at the height of the Planned Parenthood video controversy, and the shooter, Robert Dear, was reportedly motivated by an anti-abortion agenda. Police claimed that Dear said "no more baby parts" during his arrest, echoing the anti-abortion rhetoric surrounding the organization's donation of fetal tissue to medical researchers that was detailed in the videos.

One year later and the shooting remains a vivid example of how the Republicans' political war against Planned Parenthood can have violent, deadly consequences. For years, GOP lawmakers made defunding Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides comprehensive healthcare to men and women, a top priority — over the economy, over combating Zika, over ensuring that Congress runs smoothly. 

One year later and the substantial evidence of Planned Parenthood's importance in low-income communities remains just as clear. In 2013, after Texas lawmakers successfully stripped funds from Planned Parenthood, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project examined data of women who rely on Medicaid. (Planned Parenthood serviced close to 50 percent of low-income women on Medicaid before it was booted from Texas' Women's Health Program.) They found that claims for IUDs and implants dropped by 35 percent and births increased by 27 percent. Patients who seek healthcare at Planned Parenthood primarily come from disadvantaged communities, and defunding the organization has a drastic effect on those communities.

One year later and America's vice president-elect is avowed anti-abortion proponent Mike Pence, whom Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has said is "completely obsessed with Planned Parenthood." Pence's loathing for the organization is such that he has said he would shut down the United States government over Planned Parenthood's federal funding. In his many attempts at restricting abortion, Pence signed every anti-abortion bill that came across his desk as Indiana governor and co-sponsored anti-abortion legislation that basically sought to redefine "rape" — the bill would have allowed federal funds to be used only if the rape was "forcible."

In fact, Pence's "one-man crusade" against Planned Parenthood is so well documented that after Donald Trump's election victory, a flurry of donations to the organization was made under Pence's name by Americans concerned about its fate under their reign.

One year later, and Planned Parenthood's role in American women's reproductive health looms as large as ever. In 2017, with Pence in the White House and a Republican-led Congress, the attacks on Planned Parenthood will likely return with a vengeance, this time without President Obama to veto these bills. 

But women and men alike are steeling for the fight against women's reproductive rights. Concerned about the impact a Trump administration's policies will have on them, women are going out to get IUDs. Others are arming Planned Parenthood with their own money. Not 10 days after the election, Planned Parenthood reportedly received a whooping 200,000 donations — some 50,000 of them under Pence's name — 40 percent more than it usually collects in a week. 

Obama, too, is moving to protect Planned Parenthood from being defunded. His administration proposed a new rule that prevents states from withholding Title X federal family planning money from recipients for reasons "unrelated to the ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner." That means that no family planning service can be stripped of federal funding simply because they provide abortions.

And Planned Parenthood itself remains just as tenacious in anticipation of its status as the Republicans' Public Enemy No. 1 over the next four years. After the election, Richards issued a statement that reaffirmed the organization's commitment to providing healthcare to those who come to them. 

"Planned Parenthood has been here for 100 years, and one thing is clear: We will never back down and we will never stop fighting to ensure that Planned Parenthood patients have access to the care they need," she said. "Health care should not be political. Every morning, Planned Parenthood health center staff across the country wake up and open their doors, as they have this morning, to care for anyone who needs them, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, income, or country of origin. They will do so today, they will do so tomorrow, they will do so every day as they have for 100 years."

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