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Planned Parenthood shooting suspect’s courtroom outburst: "I'm a warrior for the babies"

Alleged shooter Robert Lewis Dear.
Alleged shooter Robert Lewis Dear.
Pool/Getty Images

Robert Lewis Dear, the man accused of killing three people and injuring nine others in a shooting spree at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood last month, said in court Wednesday that he is guilty and that he is a "warrior for the babies" and against Planned Parenthood.

Dear interrupted his lawyer and made repeated outbursts in the courtroom against abortion and Planned Parenthood, according to several local Colorado reporters. He referred to "blood" and "atrocities" at Planned Parenthood, and said the organization "seal[s] the truth and kill[s] the babies."

After the shooting, many commentators and news outlets were hesitant to speculate on Dear's motives, even after Dear reportedly told law enforcement, "No more baby parts" upon his arrest, and after his ex-wife said he had vandalized a Planned Parenthood 20 years ago.

Dear's lawyer is seeking a mental health evaluation of whether his client is competent to stand trial and face the 179 charges against him. That challenge could be a lengthy process. Still, this outburst is the clearest indication yet that Dear intended to terrorize Planned Parenthood because he opposes abortion.

Dear may have been motivated by this summer's anti–Planned Parenthood videos

Dear's earlier comments about "baby parts" have their origins in videos released this July by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), a group run by anti-abortion activists. CMP accused Planned Parenthood of "selling baby parts," by which they meant illegally selling fetal tissue to researchers for a profit. CMP used the hashtag #PPSellsBabyParts to promote its videos and spread public outrage over its claims.

Numerous state and federal investigations have found no evidence that CMP's allegations are true. The videos were deceptively edited and left out numerous instances when Planned Parenthood employees said, contrary to CMP's claims, that fetal tissue research shouldn't be a revenue stream or a profit maker.

That hasn't stopped anti-abortion activists, or many Republican lawmakers, from continuing to talk about "baby parts" and call for Planned Parenthood to be defunded. The term was routine even among high-ranking Republicans like former Speaker of the House John Boehner. "Recent videos exposing the abortion-for-baby parts business have shocked the nation," Boehner said when he announced the creation of a select House committee to investigate the issue. Outspoken anti-abortion lawmakers like Trent Franks (R-AZ) used the term "baby parts" in press releases, and the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), used it in his opening statement when the committee held a hearing on the issue called "Planned Parenthood Exposed."

Attacks on abortion providers have increased since the videos were released

Back in September, CBS reported that the FBI had noticed an uptick in attacks on reproductive health care facilities since the first video was released by CMP. There were nine criminal or suspicious incidents (including cyber attacks, threats, and arsons) from July, when the videos first came out, through mid-September.

An FBI Intelligence Assessment at the time found these attacks were "consistent with the actions of lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement." Moreover, the report said it was "likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities."

Less than two weeks after CBS reported that, another abortion clinic was firebombed in California. It was the fourth arson at a Planned Parenthood location in as many months.

Pro-choice advocates blame the shootings on harsh anti-abortion rhetoric

Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said Dear's "baby parts" remark showed that the attack was "motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion."

"This is an appalling act of violence targeting access to health care and terrorizing skilled and dedicated health care professionals," Cowart said in a statement.

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue wrote a Facebook post that blamed CMP's David Daleiden, as well as CMP board member and Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, for stoking violent anti-abortion sentiment with their rhetoric:

Ilyse Hogue on Facebook

Hogue and other pro-choice advocates say that violence against abortion clinics should be labeled and investigated as domestic terrorism. The mayor of Colorado Springs appears to agree that this incident counts as domestic terrorism.