Authorities are still investigating the motives that led a gunman in Colorado Springs to attack a Planned Parenthood clinic over the Thanksgiving holiday, touching of a five-hour standoff that left three people dead, including a police officer, and nine wounded. But from what is already known of Robert L. Dear, the 57-year-old suspect who eventually surrendered to police, at least two things are clear. First, that Mr. Dear was, by all accounts, the kind of angry, alienated loner with a history of run-ins with neighbors and police who should not have had access to guns. He was also the sort of troubled personality whose resentments and grievances may easily have been fed by the overheated, hate-filled rhetoric purveyed by anti-abortion politicians who have spent the last six months demonizing Planned Parenthood as baby-dismembering mass murderers.

An angry President Barack Obama condemned Friday's shooting as a national disgrace that Americans can no longer continue to accept as normal. "The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence — people who woke up in the morning and bid their loved ones goodbye with no idea it would be for the last time," he said. "And yet, two days after Thanksgiving, that's what we are forced to do again." Mr. Obama did not specifically call for tougher gun laws or try to cast blame for the Colorado deaths. He is no doubt wearied after having such calls fall so many times on deaf ears in Congress.

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He also didn't make the connection between conservatives' condemnation of Planned Parenthood and Mr. Dear's alleged crimes. Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail have been relentless in attacking Planned Parenthood's funding, not its physical presence, and there will always be unstable people ready to latch onto any excuse to commit acts of unspeakable violence in the deluded belief that they are protecting society from even greater harm. But it is also true that the ever-present threats against abortion providers have spiked as the political war against Planned Parenthood has intensified.

Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health services to women — including performing abortions at some of its clinics — has long been targeted by anti-abortion activists, and its facilities and staff members across the country have drawn death and bomb threats as well as hundreds of acts of violence over the years. Things have worsened since an anti-abortion group released surreptitiously recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale for profit of fetal organs for research. That would be illegal, but none of the various investigations since by state and federal officials have found evidence of such wrong-doing. After the videos' release, Planned Parenthood even stopped charging the administrative fees allowed under the law to cover the cost of supplying fetal tissue samples to researchers.

But the facts haven't stopped Republicans from making outrageous accusations, as in the case when GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina falsely claimed that the anti-Planned Parenthood videos included footage of "a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." None of the GOP presidential candidates may have asked for volunteers to attack a Planned Parenthood clinic, but it's not just "left-wing tactics," as Ms. Fiorina alleges, to ask whether there is a connection between such overheated rhetoric and the rise of real threats against an organization that provides legal health care to millions of women. It hardly seems coincidental that Mr. Dear reportedly used the same kind of language to describe Planned Parenthood supposedly trafficking in "baby parts" that the organization's political critics have.

But the sad truth is this: Just as tragedies like the Sandy Hook massacre failed to shame Congress into taking up meaningful gun control, this one won't stop Republican hard-liners from pushing for a federal government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. Rhetoric trumps reality and, sometimes, tragically becomes it.

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