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Did 'Hateful Rhetoric' Cause Shooting? Hear Planned Parenthood's Careful Response

Cecile Richards on 'Morning Edition'

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards listens while testifying during a Sept. 29 House panel hearing on "Planned Parenthood's Taxpayer Funding."

Cecile Richards is walking a fine line: She paints the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic as one of many attacks linked to "hateful rhetoric."

She doesn't specifically say that rhetoric motivated the attack Friday in Colorado Springs.

The president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America spoke with NPR on Monday morning about the attack that left three people dead: a mother of two children, an Iraq war veteran, a police officer.

Richards spoke of an "incredible escalation of harassment and intimidation" over the past five years at clinics that provide reproductive health services, including abortions. She called the escalation "un-American."

This sort of hateful rhetoric "has real impact," Richards said, adding that some of the most heated language is in the presidential campaign. "Folks are willing to say anything, it seems, to get ahead in their political ambitions."

She stopped short of claiming that a long-running conservative campaign against Planned Parenthood specifically motivated Robert Lewis Dear, the man accused of opening fire on Friday. News reports have quoted Dear as mentioning "baby parts" in a statement to police, but police have not released a motive.

Republicans have led a call to defund Planned Parenthood over edited videos released by an anti-abortion group alleging the organization violates rules on fetal tissue donation for research. Republican presidential candidates have rejected any link between anti-abortion rhetoric and the shootings.

Here's what Richards said when asked if she links the attack to the earlier controversy:

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