After a shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last week, anti-abortion activists in Florida are cancelling a rally planned at the state Capitol next week.
The Florida Family Policy Council, which was going to bus supporters from Miami and Orlando to picket the governor's office Dec. 7, has decided to push back the rally to the spring in response to the shooting that left three dead on Friday.
“This violent and horrifying act by someone who has a troubling and violent past, is in complete opposition to the pro-life cause,” said the group's president, John Stemberger, in a statement Monday. “We believe that we must continue promoting the pro-life message and reiterate the concern we have for every human life including the victims of this tragedy."
Stemberger and his supporters have been calling on Gov. Rick Scott to cancel contracts with Planned Parenthood that require the state to match some federal Medicaid funds.
In total, it costs the state $45,000 a year, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. And the governor doesn't plan to end the contracts, even as he has taken a hard stance against Planned Parenthood in the wake of videos of the organization's fetal tissue donation programs that have stirred outrage among conservatives.
But Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida CEO Barbara Zdravecky on Monday called out heated rhetoric nationally against the group, saying that encouraged the shooting in Colorado.
"We have all seen an alarming increase in the hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and women's health care providers and our patients over the last few months," Zdravecky said at an event in Sarasota. "That environment breeds acts of violence, and Americans reject the hatred and vitriol that fueled this tragedy."
Florida Planned Parenthood clinics have remained open for their normal hours since the shooting, she said.
The organization's clinics have tough security, Zdravecky said. And after the Colorado Springs shooting, she said local law enforcement contacted her and reaffirmed their support for safety at Planned Parenthood locations. Among the supporters is Democratic St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who Zdravecky said was outside a clinic in Pinellas County Monday to show his support.
Stemberger is not backing down from his demand that Scott end those contracts, despite rescheduling the rally for an undetermined date this spring.
“We will continue to push forward to end abortion and end the taxpayer funding of abortion providers in our state,” he said in the statement.
“However," Stemberger added, "we also admonish those on the other side of this issue who are attempting to use this tragedy for their own political gains."