Shootings Can't Keep Happening, Planned Parenthood President Says
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We talk next with the leader of Planned Parenthood. Her organization offers a wide range of reproductive health services in 700 clinics across this nation. And at one of those clinics in Colorado Springs, a gunman killed three people on Friday. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards is on the line. Welcome to the program.
CECILE RICHARDS: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: Everyone's assigning some meaning to this. Police, of course, are looking for a motive. The governor of Colorado calls it a form of terrorism. How do you think of this shooting?
RICHARDS: Well, I mean, our deepest concern right now, of course, is with the families of the people who were killed and injured. We've been working really closely there with law enforcement and the Planned Parenthood staff who handled this kind of tragedy with unbelievable courage. This kind of violence just can't keep happening.
INSKEEP: I think I hear you reluctant to find a larger meaning here, is that correct?
RICHARDS: Well, I mean, we've been really careful to understand what the motivation is of this murderer. And we're working really closely with law enforcement on that. But, clearly, we're concerned, as I think is the rest of America, about the increased sort of hateful rhetoric and harassment and intimidation of both doctors and women who are both providing health care and getting health care in America. It's really un-American. It's been hard to see the kind of dehumanization of both health care providers and, of course, women who are simply looking for health care.
INSKEEP: Do you see this shooting then as part of a larger pattern?
RICHARDS: Well, clearly, I mean, Steve, there's been an incredible escalation of harassment and intimidation against Planned Parenthood health centers and also other women's health clinics in America. I think that, you know - the latest report I saw that since 2010, there's been a doubling of these kinds of activities. So we take it extremely seriously and, of course, the health care and safety of our patients and our employees is our biggest concern.
INSKEEP: Now, as you know, numerous reports have said the suspect, in a rambling interview, made many remarks, including a remark - something about baby parts, which, inevitably, will bring to mind this controversy over three Planned Parenthood affiliates that have provided fetal tissue for research. There was a sting video that's been much, much disputed and debated. Is it fair to link this to this other debate?
RICHARDS: Well, I think it's important to recognize that words matter. And when you use this kind of hateful rhetoric, whether you're a politician or whether you're in elected office or whether you're an opposition group, this kind of rhetoric towards doctors and women seeking health care has real impact. And I think folks should think carefully about what they say and how they treat women and women's ability to access care in America. I just - it's alarming to see this kind of rhetoric and these kinds of smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients continue.
INSKEEP: And I suppose we should mention Republican presidential candidates have suggested that the extreme rhetoric is on your side. Carly Fiorina, Republican presidential candidate, says it's left-wing to link this shooting to the videos. Ted Cruz suggested that the shooter could've been, quote, "a transgender leftist." He was citing a report in a conservative website. Is there a danger in drawing too broad a meaning on your side from this shooting?
RICHARDS: I think we've been extremely careful working - we are working hand in hand with law enforcement, Steve, as we do across the country to ensure the safety of our patients and the safety of our employees. I think where you've seen the most heated rhetoric has been, frankly, in this presidential primary. Folks are willing to say anything, it seems, to get ahead in their political ambitions. And the real danger in this country is when people put politics ahead of women's health care. It's horrifying to see - and I can't believe we're seeing it even this week - as we - as really, we should be, to me, thinking about the families of the people who were killed and injured and how we can stop this kind of violence in America.
INSKEEP: Well, on this Monday, will there be different security at any of the other 700 Planned Parenthood clinics across this country?
RICHARDS: Well, we have very strong security measures in place and always have at our health centers. And, as you may know - or even over the weekend, thousands of women accessed Planned Parenthood for a whole variety of health care. You know, our commitment at Planned Parenthood is our doors stay open. And they did this weekend as well.
INSKEEP: Well, Cecile Richards, thanks very much.
RICHARDS: Good to talk to you, Steve.
INSKEEP: She is the leader of Planned Parenthood, and she's speaking with us on this Monday morning after a shooting in Colorado Springs in which three people were killed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.