Why Pro-Life Advocates Are Not Responsible for the Planned Parenthood Shooting

Many pro-choice people have responded to the recent shooting by blaming pro-life advocates. In this article I show why such claims are completely unjustified by analyzing culpability and what it means to incite violence.

Estimated reading time: 14 minutes.
Photo credit: Colorado Springs Police Department

Photo credit: Colorado Springs Police Department

Last Friday a 57-year old armed man named Robert Lewis Dear walked into a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs and opened fire. He barricaded himself inside for hours, and before surrendering himself to police he killed three people and wounded nine more.

Ben Domenech at The Federalist summarized many of the weird things that have already come out about Dear:

As is so often the case in these circumstances, Dear is described by neighbors as an odd loner, who avoided eye contact and spoke unintelligibly. In South Carolina, his previous residence, he had been arrested after hiding in the bushes and peeping into his neighbor’s house. He shot a neighbor’s dog with a pellet gun and threatened him with bodily harm. In Colorado, he lived off the grid in a trailer, on a five-acre plot of land he apparently purchased for $6,000 in 2014. This followed a series of cabins and trailers — without electricity or running water — that he stayed in after his divorce in 2000.

Dear has no history of affiliation with the Republican Party or pro-life groups or politicians.

While we don’t yet know very many details about his initial questioning by police, it was leaked that he said something about “no more baby parts” at some point. This is a clear reference to the Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) undercover videos that have provided evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally sells body parts from the babies they kill in abortion. Planned Parenthood and others are claiming or implying that pro-life advocates are partially to blame for the shooting because we have been saying that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.

Are pro-life advocates culpable for the shooting? By culpable I don’t mean “the only person to blame,” or even “the primary person to blame.” I also don’t mean “ought to be legally prosecuted.” By culpable I mean “morally blameworthy for their actions.” Whether pro-life advocates are culpable for the recent shooting depends entirely on what it means to incite violence. While I will not answer every possible question about what circumstances could make one culpable, I will argue that there are two extreme ways of thinking about culpability that we should avoid. I will also argue that the right way to determine if a statement incites violence is to examine the statement, not merely whether or not it was credited for violence.

Let’s start by examining four fictional cases.

What We Learned in CMP’s Fifth and Worst Video Yet

This morning Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released their fifth undercover video. It is the most visually graphic and disturbing yet, and it is also the most damning to Planned Parenthood.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes.


In this post, I’m going to summarize the most important parts of the video, because it’s important that we don’t miss any of this. Rather than putting them in the order they appear in the video, I’m organizing them based on the type of evidence they provide.

I’d encourage you to watch the video for yourself, even though, again, it is very graphic.

Evidence of Planned Parenthood Changing Abortion Procedures to Harvest Baby Parts

The two main legal critiques of Planned Parenthood since the CMP videos started coming out are:

  1. That they change abortion procedures to procure baby parts against their consent-agreement with the children’s mothers;
  2. That they are financially profiting from selling, not merely donating baby parts.

Summarizing the Strongest Evidence That PP is Selling, Not Donating


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes.

A friend of mine asked me this question, in response to the third Planned Parenthood video coming out:

I’m still not sure enough that PP is selling baby parts. Would you guys be willing to write a blog post about why you think they are? I think that would be helpful to your pro-choice readers too.

The way Planned Parenthood has attempted to defend themselves is by saying they are donating, not selling the baby parts, and that they are compensated for what it costs them to donate the baby parts. That’s an adequate response if the only thing you’re trying to explain is putting numbers like $75 for a “specimen.” They can say “that’s just us recouping our costs. We do not profit.”

The problem is that there are statements in each video that contradict this attempt to explain away the damning evidence Center for Medical Progress has provided. With each video, the evidence gets worse and worse.

How Much Longer?

Buyer: That 11.6 [week fetus] was pretty good. There was three or four samples we could have taken out of the 11.6.

Dr. Ginde (of Planned Parenthood): Excellent.

Buyer: If we were doing like $50 to $75 per specimen, that’d be like $200 to $300 [total], and we’d be comfortable with that. But like I said, stuff like this, I mean we don’t want to be like just a flat fee of like $200, and then, it’s like…[laughs]

Dr. Ginde: No, and you know the uh, I think that, I think a per item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it.

I wonder how much longer pro-choice people will continue to try to claim Planned Parenthood doesn’t profit at all from selling baby parts.

Click here for more posts from us on the Planned Parenthood videos.