MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Business went on as usual at Planned Parenthood centers across Minnesota Saturday following the deadly shooting in Colorado on Friday.
Planned Parenthood President and CEO Sarah Stoesz oversees Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
She says while she and her 350 employees across the region were heartbroken by the events in Colorado Springs, they remain steadfast in their mission to serve at 19 clinics.
“This was unacceptable behavior in this day and age, and despicable,” Stoesz said.
The shooting in Colorado Springs left three people dead and nine others injured.
Stoesz says despite the violence in Colorado, all of her employees showed up to work on Saturday.
“I am so proud of them,” she said. “This is the water that we swim in. We have been providing services in this country for 100 years.”
She says the organization has strict security practices that are similar to those followed in Colorado Springs. The staff practices shelter and evacuation drills in case of any danger.
Although all victims had not been identified as of Saturday, Stoesz credits those safety practices with keeping employees and patients in Colorado Springs safe.
Planned Parenthood of Minnesota serves 65,000 patients, providing sexual and reproductive health services, including abortions.
While employees and patients continued routines at clinics, regular protesters also continued their practices of standing outside the clinic in St. Paul.
Several clinics across the country that provide abortion services often have regular protesters that gather on a public sidewalk near clinics to protest.
Protester Lyle Bowe told WCCO he comes out to the St. Paul clinic every day to pray.
“I come out here and pray every day for the children that are killed here,” Bowe said.
He says if the Colorado gunman was targeting Planned Parenthood, his actions would not be in line with what most protesters stand for.
“I think he is just as radical as the abortionists and people at the Planned Parenthood here,” Bowe said.
Investigators were still interviewing witnesses on Saturday and would not say if the suspected gunman was specifically targeting Planned Parenthood.
Witnesses reported the gunman shot at random in a standoff with police that lasted for five hours.
“We are here on behalf of life,” Bowe said.
Protests grew across the country and in Minnesota over the summer when secretly-recorded videos suggested showing Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of aborted fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood denies those claims. Federal law bars the commercial sale of fetal tissue, but allows not-for-profit tissue donations with consent of the woman who had the abortion.
Stoesz says Planned Parenthood in Minnesota does not have a fetal tissue donation program, but stands with other states that do have those programs.
“Womens’ health is important for the health of our community, state, country and world,” Stoesz said. “That is why it is such an honor to do this work and that is why nobody backs away from it and why we continue to come and do it no matter what.”
Planned Parenthood currently receives about $500 million annually in federal funding.
Texas and a handful of other states — including Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana — have moved to eliminate Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood amid the recent controversy over fetal tissue.
Those moves led Planned Parenthood to sue officials in some of those states.