As the Colorado Springs community continues to grapple with last Friday’s attack inside a Planned Parenthood clinic that left three dead and nine injured, several prominent voices have seized the opportunity to politicize the deadly assault.
Just a half mile away from the epicenter of the attacks, however, Diane Foley had a different message Monday afternoon.
“We’re responding with a real spirit of sadness over what’s gone on,” Foley said. “Regardless about what your beliefs are about what happens inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, in no way is this response something anybody would condone. We are looking for ways to come together for a response as a sign of unity. We don't just want to react to what has happened. This isn't a political issue and shouldn't be used for political gain by anybody."
Foley is president and CEO of Life Network, which runs one of its three locations just down the street from where where the assailant, now identified as Robert Lewis Dear, began a five-hour standoff with law enforcement. The pregnancy center location was closed for the day because of Thanksgiving weekend.
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Even while Dear dug in and held hostages inside the building, Planned Parenthood’s regional affiliate CEO Vicki Cowart released a statement blaming pro-life “extremists” for “creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country.”
Cowart, who went on to say that the shooter “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion,” was joined by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who made sure to emphasize the episode as a “crime against women receiving health care services.”
Meanwhile, Mayor John Suthers speculated of the shooter’s motives that, “inferences (could be made) from where it took place,” although, even as of Monday afternoon, when Dear was arraigned, his motives in the slayings remained unclear to prosecutors.
To Foley, the deadly attacks on what would naturally be assumed as a rival organization—which offers abortions in a college community made up of over 400,000 citizens—were unjustifiable, regardless of Dear’s motive.
“I think the fact that [opposition to Planned Parenthood] is being used as a talking point at this point is unfortunate, because there has been nothing in any of the activities that we have done in the community that would support that,” Foley said. “Our stance is that every choice is important because every life has value. The value of that life is every young woman who is facing her unplanned pregnancy and doesn’t know what to do, it’s the baby, it’s the grandparents, it’s anybody involved in the situation.
“Each one of their lives has incredible value and meaning because God has created each of us in His image, and that’s what gives us our value. That means that, regardless of choices that people make to do right or wrong, their life still has incredible value and no one has the right to take that from them.”
While five survivors of the attacks are recovering in local hospitals, three others—each a parent with two young children—were killed, including Officer Garrett Swasey, a lay pastor/elder at Hope Chapel Colorado Springs, who was among the first to respond to the call for help from Planned Parenthood.
Swasey, who was remembered by fellow Hope Chapel pastor Kurt Aichele as a “an absolutely incredible man of God who loved his family and the flock of God in incredible ways,” was part of a leadership team that supports Colorado Springs Pregnancy Center, both financially and with volunteers.
“Garrett has always been about proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ and him crucified, and that’s what he lived, it’s why he did what he did,” Aichele told CNN Saturday. “We pray that God’s glory would be on display because he sacrificed the way that he did.”
Foley, whose organization has donated to the victim funds, including that of Officer Swasey, said Monday a local effort was being organized among pro-life organizations in Colorado Springs to provide make a unified, tangible with the victims’ families, as well as the survivors of the assault.
"I think it's important for us to understand the clear fact that while [Officer Swasey] strongly disagreed with activities that went on in Planned Parenthood, that didn't stop him from going in there to protect the people inside in a time of crisis," Foley said.
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What she and the other pro-life groups want to be diligent to avoid, however, is making an “opportunity” of the tragic losses in their community.
“Over the next couple of days, there will be more tangible ways in which we can respond and reach out to the situation,” Foley said. “While we believe in the value of every life, we certainly don’t believe that abortion is going to end with more violence. In fact, this act was counter to what we believe is the way to end the culture of death. Our primary motive is that our community in Colorado Springs would develop much more of a culture of life than a culture of death, and all of this has been in direct opposition to that.”