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Violence against Planned Parenthood has happened here

Jack Lessenberry

When it comes to senseless violence, the last few weeks have been, simply, horrible. Yesterday’s mass killing in San Bernadino, the Paris attacks, the shooting at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs six days ago.

When I first heard a bulletin about the Planned Parenthood shootings, I mistakenly thought that it had happened in Michigan. And I have to confess that I was irrationally relieved that it didn’t happen here, though lives lost in Colorado are no less important.

However, as Planned Parenthood’s Desiree Cooper coincidently reminded me, it has happened here. Twenty-nine years ago this week, a clinic in Kalamazoo was firebombed and destroyed in what was the second such attack at the facility. Those who did it were never caught, but a couple calling themselves the “Kalamazoo Pro-life Action League” said they had no remorse, with one of them adding, “it puts them out of the abortion business.”

Had they been right, it would also have put them out of the health care business; the clinic, like most Planned Parenthood Clinics, provides more pap tests and breast exams than abortions, and far more contraceptive services than anything else.

But they were wrong. The clinic moved to a temporary location immediately, and within a month was back up and running and providing a full range of services, and still is today.

This has been a rough year for Planned Parenthood, in large part because of the fraudulently obtained and deceptively edited videos that seem to show a high official negotiating to sell fetal tissue for a profit, which they in fact don’t do.

When the troubled individual in Colorado was arrested, he reportedly said “no more baby parts,” which may be an indication that he was inspired by these videos, or by various politicians’ further distortions about what they showed.

Bizarrely, this horror may actually have helped Planned Parenthood. Republicans in Congress seem to be quietly dropping, at least for now, attempts to defund them.

In Lansing yesterday, State Senator Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor and eight of her colleagues offered a resolution calling on the U.S. Department of Justice and Congress to “fully investigate the unrelenting acts of violence against reproductive health clinics.”

She also wants the government to provide security for them. This resolution has, of course, as much chance of being passed as I do of becoming pope. The legislature is controlled by anti-abortion forces. They are more likely to pass a resolution some Republicans are about to introduce that calls on Michigan officials to ignore and disobey the U.S. Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry.

To someone who grew up in the 1960s, the spectacle of right-wingers urging defiance of the law is certainly interesting. You have to wonder what they would say if I urged law enforcement officials to ignore the high court’s ruling that we can all have guns.

That’s the one thing nobody is suggesting we do anything about. Someone posted on Facebook yesterday that “the worst thing about today’s mass murder is that you have to describe it as ‘today’s.’” We know another one will come soon, and we’ve given up thinking we can do anything about it.

Which may just be the most frightening thing of all.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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