Reflections On The Planned Parenthood Shooting: It Could Have Been Me

Planned Parenthood, protecting reproductive rights.

Now that the media coverage has subsided, and I've had time to really reflect on what happened there, I am hurt and sad — and aware that I could have been in similar danger.

On Friday November 27th 2015, a man carrying an AK-47-style weapon invaded a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. He shot at police from inside the building. There was a five-hour police standoff. Three human beings died. There were nine other individuals wounded, among whom were five police officers. The shooter was identified as 57-year-old Robert Dear. After many hours, Dear exited the clinic a little before 5 p.m. local time and surrendered to the police.

This all occurred at Planned Parenthood — a place where women’s reproductive rights are respected.

Women come to Planned Parenthood for a variety of reasons: an affordable check up from a licensed gynecologist, STD testing, pregnancy testing, LGBT services, and to have an abortion. The women present at that clinic in Colorado on Friday had different reasons for being there. What did they have in common? They were all subjected to a dangerous man.

Now that the media coverage has subsided, and I've had time to really reflect on what happened there, I am hurt and sad — and aware that I could have been in similar danger.

In 2001 I found out I was pregnant. I was mentally unstable at the time and decided to terminate the pregnancy. Though I wanted to become a mother some day, I knew that at 22 with a chronic mental illness that I was figuring out how to manage was not the time to have a baby. I made the difficult decision to have an abortion.

It was a hard decision for me to make. For some women, however, having an abortion is not a decision they labor over. Dr. Jessica Zucker, PhD  is a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. Zucker has spoken candidly about these issues in The New York Times, delving into her own miscarriage. Zucker asserts that having an abortion (for some women) is quite commonplace:

“Upon getting pregnant, countless women are not necessarily planning to be pregnant or are not wanting to remain pregnant or have a child at this time in their lives. For some women the decision is difficult to have an abortion and for others it’s not difficult at all. It’s not a traumatic decision. It’s not an  emotionally straining decision. It’s a no-brainer for them.”

Some of the women in Colorado at that Planned Parenthood clinic could have been present for a routine procedure, such as having an abortion. Zucker told Ravishly:

“They go on to schedule a procedure to terminate the pregnancy thinking this is a legal right and hopefully a decision they feel (ultimately) good about even if it’s difficult; meaning they decided it’s not a good time for them to have a child or they’re not prepared in general or their relationship isn’t ready or whatever the circumstance is. And to show up to an appointment and be met with terror is obviously not anything anyone is ever prepared for.”

Difficult decision or no-brainer, I cannot get it out of my mind. It could have been me. What if I was at that clinic that day?

I could have been one of those women entering the clinic on Friday. My life would have been in danger. Some of those women were probably scared to enter the clinic in the first place. Choosing to have an abortion is not an easy decision. The fact that their lives were placed in unnecessary danger makes me sick.

A woman is at her most vulnerable when entering a clinic to have an abortion. I know this, because I was placed in this situation 14 years ago. Women should have the right to feel safe upon entering a reproductive rights clinic.

I cannot imagine how terrified the women in that clinic must have felt. Adding further hurt, after the standoff ended, the fallout from the shooting continued. Pro-life activists took to Twitter, saying things like “No sympathy for any pregnant female who was injured in the Planned Parenthood shooting that was there to get an abortion. She deserved it.”

Why is it acceptable to post hateful remarks like this toward innocent women? When will things change?

There is an even larger issue here that needs to be addressed — it is extremely easy to get a hold of a gun in America. Caitlin Kelly, author of Blown Away, American Women and Guns, told Ravishly that changing the laws on gun usage in America is not easy and ultimately would not provide the solution the American people are looking for: less gun violence.

“People say: more gun laws. Where? What do you want those laws to say? How is that going to work? Changing laws at the Federal level is very difficult. No matter how passionately we may feel about gun control in New York City, it's regionally different from place to place. The more thoughtful question is what do you want the law to do? Pretend you are the person sitting down to craft that bill. What should it say?”

Regardless of the ease with which someone can obtain a gun, I cannot get it out of my head — it could have been me. If I had been walking in on that day to have an abortion or an STD test, I could have died trying. The care provided at Planned Parenthood is legal and protected. It should be accessible without fear.

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