Several Republican presidential candidates on Sunday condemned the attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs but stopped short of agreeing with liberal critics who say that fiery anti-abortion rhetoric contributed to the shooting.
"It's obviously a tragedy. Nothing justifies this," Carly Fiorina said on "Fox News Sunday." "Any protesters should always be peaceful. Whether it's Black Lives Matter or pro-life protesters."
Calls to defund Planned Parenthood through congressional action have escalated in recent months amid a protracted national debate about the ethics of collecting fetal tissue for research.
That dialogue was cast in a grim light after reports that the suspected Colorado gunman is said to have used the phrase "no more baby parts" while discussing his motives for Friday's attack. The attack has been linked to escalating rhetoric on the right by liberal critics of anti-abortion activism such as Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
"We've seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months," Cowart said. "That environment breeds acts of violence."
Fiorina rejected such comments.
"This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing a messenger because they don't agree with the message," she said. "The vast majority of Americans agree what Planned Parenthood is doing is wrong."
Donald Trump called the Colorado shooter a "sick person," and Ben Carson called the shooting the work of "extremism."