While Republicans have tried to distance the anti-abortion movement from Friday's deadly armed assault at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, CO, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is taking a different approach. During a Senate speech on Monday, the 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful argued that the shooting proves the organization deserves more government funding, not less. The Senate discussion came just days after Robert Lewis Dear allegedly killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic, reportedly saying to police, "No more baby parts," after he was arrested for the attack. On Tuesday, Sanders continued to defend Planned Parenthood, and his remarks stand in stark contrast to those of several GOP presidential candidates. Politicians including Carly Fiorina suggested that Dear's motivations were unclear — and she used the event to discuss the Planned Parenthood smear campaign earlier this year, which allegedly featured Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal tissue. (The videos have been debunked and were proved to be highly and deceptively edited.) Sanders, however, didn't use the tragedy to push his own agenda about abortion; instead, he defended the other health services that Planned Parenthood provides for millions of American women. "While we still don't have all the details as to what motivated the shooter, what is clear is that Planned Parenthood has been the subject of vicious and unsubstantiated statements attacking an organization that provides critical care for millions of Americans," Sanders said on the Senate floor. The senator also called the GOP's attempts to defund Planned Parenthood a "witch hunt."
Now is not the time to continue a witch hunt for an organization that provides critical healthcare services, from reproductive health care to cancer screenings and preventative services to millions of Americans.
Sanders also said that "bitter, vitriolic rhetoric can have serious, unintended consequences." It's not hard to understand what rhetoric the senator is referring to — in their attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, GOP politicians have made plenty of troubling remarks about the organization. And though most anti-abortion activists are nothing like reports of alleged shooter Dear, it's impossible to deny the connection between the issues. "Now is not the time to continue a witch hunt for an organization that provides critical healthcare services, from reproductive health care to cancer screenings and preventative services to millions of Americans," Sanders said. Whatever your feelings on abortion, Sanders' point is an important one: Planned Parenthood provides many crucial benefits that have nothing to do with abortion, and it doesn't help anyone to make having access to those services more difficult.