Shows of unity and community-led vigils organized by Planned Parenthood and their allies are being held nationwide on Saturday in response to recent high-profile massacres as well as the broader cultural crisis that matches the unchecked proliferation of guns and the epidemic of mass shootings with the ways in which hateful rhetoric aimed at specific groups of people is infecting life in the United States.
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A week ago Friday, a lone gunman, identified as Robert Dear, is suspected of being the person who shot and killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And this week, fourteen people were murdered during an employee holiday party in the town of San Bernadino, California. The husband and wife couple who carried out those murders, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were later killed by police officers during a shootout.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of these terrible tragedies, and we are resolved to stop this from happening again," said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "It’s not enough to denounce the tragedy without also denouncing the poisonous rhetoric that fueled it. Instead, some politicians are continuing to stoke it, which is unconscionable — going so far as to try and pass legislation further blocking access to health care just days after the tragedy in Colorado Springs."
As it urged people to rally together in solidarity in their communities nationwide on Saturday, Planned Parenthood Action said on its website that one of the keys lessons of the tragedy in Colorado is that words matter and hateful rhetoric does, in fact, fuel violence. "We are calling for an end to the inflammatory rhetoric that has vilified and fueled attacks not only against Planned Parenthood and abortion providers, but also against Black, immigrant, refugee, and LGBTQ communities," the group said.
At an event in Colorado honoring the three victims who lost their lives in the clinic shooting—35-year-old mother Jennifer Yurie Ah King Markovsky; 29-year-old father Ke'Arre Stewart; and 44-year-old police officer and father Garret Swasey—Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, spoke out against the recent violence and its hateful source. "Enough is enough," Richards said.
Offering his support on Saturrday, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted, "In these difficult times, against vitriolic Republican rhetoric, we must protect a woman's right to choose."
Hillary Clinton, also running for president, showed her commitment to the cause by stating, "Women deserve access to the health care they need—without interference, intimidation, or violence."
Meanwhile, in its statement, the ACLU expressed solidarity with Planned Parenthood and all those defending the rights of women to safely access—and providers to safely provide—abortion and other healthcare services.
"Today," said executive director Anthony Romero, "the ACLU joins Planned Parenthood and a number of other organizations in a National Day of Solidarity to stand up against violence against our communities. It’s time for us to fight back against the violence and hateful rhetoric against abortion providers, immigrants, refugees, Muslims, the transgender community, the Black community and others. Enough is enough. Please join us in standing up for American values and protesting discrimination and prejudice."