The clinic targeted in the November Planned Parenthood attack in Colorado Springs reopened Monday, more than two months after the deadly shooting that killed three people. Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the organization was fulfilling its commitment to women by reopening and continuing to offer a full range of clinic services including abortion. At a news conference outside the clinic, Cowart said:
We have to be really honest about the fact that there are a lot of people in this country that bully women and bully health care providers. Planned Parenthood is on the side of resiliency, on the side of believing that women and families should have access to reproductive health care.
Scars from the attack remain, though. The entrance was still boarded up — police had rammed the building with a military vehicle to stop the shooter — with bullet marks riddling the walls. But, emotionally, the recovery may take more time: several employees at the center have yet to return to work. Even so, about 30 patients were scheduled to see health care providers Monday.
Other reminders of the November attack included security guards keeping watch over the premises as well as two men who stood nearby with signs to protest the clinic, professing the same anti-abortion views as the attacker. One, a Roman Catholic priest, even said he waited a while before returning. "I didn't feel it was in good taste to be out here in light of the shooting. I think it would have been like stepping on graves,” Rev. Bill Carmody told The New York Times.
The gunman, Robert Dear, an anti-abortion fanatic who called himself a "warrior for the babies," is undergoing mental health evaluations which has put his trial in limbo. The victims of the shooting included a police officer, an Iraq War veteran, and a mother of two children. He faces 179 felony charges including first-degree murder, and his next hearing is Feb. 24.
In a December court appearance he interrupted the proceedings at least 20 times with interjections. He did admit to targeting the clinic in the court room. At one point he said, "I am guilty. There is no trial," while calling on the court to "protect the babies."
While the clinic remained closed, at first during the investigation and then during repair of the facilities, Planned Parenthood worked to move patients to other facilities or connect them with other providers. Before the shooting, the clinic saw 8,000 patients a year. "Reproductive health is not something you can put off for weeks and weeks. If you need birth control, you need birth control," Cowart told local TV station KOAA at the time. Those 8,000 patients have been sent notices of the clinic's reopening, The Denver Post reported.
Even as the clinic returns to normal, the attack will be on workers and patients minds for a long time. "We can't not be aware of the danger and of the challenge of what happened in this place," Cowart said Monday.