Suspect in Planned Parenthood attack makes 1st appearance

The deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado has raised questions about whether heated political rhetoric about abortion and abortion providers might encourage acts of violence.

Robert Lewis Dear, 57, was arrested after the deadly shooting and police standoff at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic last Friday and appeared before a judge by video on Monday. Prosecutors refused to discuss any possible motives and documents about Dear's background were sealed.

He learned he will face first-degree murder charges in the deaths of police officer Garrett Swasey, as well as an Iraq war veteran Ke-Arre Marcell Stewart, 29, and Jennifer Markovsky, 35, a mother of two. Nine other people were wounded.

Dear wore a padded vest with black straps that authorities described as a standard-issue "safety smock." He gazed downward during most of the hearing. Victims' relatives watched from a courtroom.

When Chief District Judge Gilbert Martinez asked if he understood his rights, Dear replied, "no questions."

Dear has been described by acquaintances as a reclusive loner who did not seem to have strong political or social opinions.

Dear was arrested in 1992 in North Charleston, South Carolina, on a charge of criminal sexual conduct after a woman said he put a knife to her neck, forced her into her apartment and sexually assaulted her after hitting her in the mouth. No records show how the case was ultimately handled. Investigators said Dear told them he knew the woman and had consensual sex with her.

Public defender Daniel King, who represented Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, stood beside Dear and will act as his attorney. The suspect is expected to be formally charged on Dec. 9.

Police sources say Dear told them "no more baby parts" after being arrested, a possible reference to a video posted by anti-abortion activists that accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling aborted fetal tissue.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) fired off a letter to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan Monday. It called for him to immediately disband a committee tasked with investigating Planned Parenthood.

The senator wrote, "It is time to stop the witch hunt against Planned Parenthood, stop the demonizing rhetoric and disband this committee immediately."

UC Berkeley Public Policy Professor Jane Mauldon says the political rhetoric that has become increasingly heated in recent months could have dangerous even violent consequences.

"All too often people have been willing to equate abortion with murder. I mean, this is the way the rhetoric is framed," Mauldon said, "It will tend to make people think that that kind of behavior is legitimate, is ethically, morally ok, even if it's not legal."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, California indicated Monday that the GOP-run Congress will not risk a government shutdown fight with President Barack Obama over GOP efforts to halt federal funding for the organization.

Many Republicans including McCarthy say they disagree with Planned Parenthood's defenders who claim that harsh language from the organization's critics has helped create a hostile political environment. Planned Parenthood gets about a third of its annual $1.3 billion budget from Washington. Federal money cannot be used to finance abortions except in rare cases.