On Friday, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear entered a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood and opened fire with a long gun. For hours, Dear exchanged gunfire with police officials, killing two civilians and one police officer. Much of the coverage has focused on the Officer Garrett Swasey, who was killed in the shootings, or the claims that Dear made remarks about “baby parts” upon his arrest suggesting that the crime might have something to do with the unfounded accusation by anti-abortionists earlier this year that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit (they don’t). But it should not go unnoticed that both civilian victims in the Colorado Springs shootings were people of color.
Nov. 28, 2015 - New York, NY, United States - Activist and organizer Sunsara Taylor (left), a key organizer of the rally, leads her fellow demonstrators in a chant as they march around Union Square Park. Image Credit: Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire)
35-year-old Jennifer Markovsky grew up in Hawaii, where she met her husband Paul Markovsky who was stationed there. After they married, the couple had two children and were living in Colorado where Paul had been reassigned several years ago. She was at the Planned Parenthood clinic accompanying a friend when she was killed by Dear on Friday. Her father John Ah-King told the Denver Post:
“She was the most lovable person,” Ah-King said from his home in Hawaii. “So kind-hearted, just always there when I needed her.”
29-year-old Ke’Arre Stewart was an Iraq War veteran and father of two when he was also killed by Dear on Friday. KKTV reports:
Stewart’s wife said he leaves behind his children whose lives will now never be the same.
She said all the family wants right now is justice for Stewart.
Mass shootings are heartbreaking, but perhaps most upsetting about Friday’s shooting is how it focuses attention specifically on those who are most affected by anti-abortionists’ enduring war on reproductive rights. Since Roe v. Wade first established our constitutional right to reproductive choice, anti-abortionists have deployed whatever tools they can muster to try and turn back reproductive rights. They have waged a war on multiple fronts — legislative, grassroots, cultural — to attempt to restrict the abortion access of women and to stigmatize the women who exercise their right to reproductive health and choice. Just this year, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear yet another case that could close many of the nation’s abortion providers.
What often goes missing in the fight to preserve reproductive rights for American women is that this is not just about reproductive justice; it — like so many issues — intersects with race. The Right’s war to shutter the doors of Planned Parenthood is a war on poor women of color.
The simple facts are these: the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s patients are low-income. Although national racial demographic data are largely unavailable for Planned Parenthood, in New York City, 70% of those who received services from a Planned Parenthood clinic was a person of color.
Planned Parenthood provides a host of reproductive health services that serve as direct interventions for a number of public health issues that disproportionately impact communities of colour. For the Asian American and Native Hawaiian community alone, breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infection rates are disparately high, and Planned Parenthood clinics offers affordable early screening and treatment for each.
When a domestic terrorist takes the partisan agenda of anti-abortionists to disturbing and violent extremes, we must be saddened and outraged that it was people of colour who lost their lives; but, it might be disingenuous to express surprise. When the Right declares war on clinics like Planned Parenthood, they seek to end health services that specifically serve our communities. When they pass laws that close community health clinics and eliminate access to the life-saving healthcare that we need, it is us — lower-income men and women of colour, not wealthy White men and women — who are disproportionately forced to endure the consequences.
So let us take note: two civilians victims were killed on Friday for doing nothing more than going to their local community health clinic seeking healthcare for themselves or their loved ones. They were married. They were devoted parents. They were veterans or married to military personnel. And, yes, they were both people of colour. And, they deserved better than this.
I #StandWithPP today and every day because we must no longer tolerate this nation’s unending war on the lives of people of colour. I #StandWithPP because the unrelenting efforts to close the health clinics that serve our communities are just one of many ways this country repeats its favourite mantra that we do not deserve our basic right to life and health. I #StandWithPP because I believe we all deserve better than this.<?p ???>
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