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Planned Parenthood Arson Latest in Series of Violent Acts Against Clinics

Teddy Wilson

The Planned Parenthood health center in Pullman, Washington, was set ablaze Friday at around 3:30 a.m.—the latest incident in increasingly frequent violence directed at abortion providers and their affiliates.

See more of our coverage on recent attacks against Planned Parenthood here.

The Planned Parenthood health center in Pullman, Washington, was set ablaze Friday at around 3:30 a.m.—the latest incident in increasingly frequent violence directed at abortion providers and their affiliates.

Pullman Fire Department and the Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force concluded that the fire was arson, reported the Spokesman-Review.

Chris Tennant, a Pullman police spokesman, said that the fire was considered suspicious because of the time it occurred and the history of violence against abortion providers. “It’s an office building that started fire at 3:30 in the morning,” Tennant told the Spokesman-Review. “That’s suspicious.”

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Multiple local and federal law enforcement agencies are involved in the investigation, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. No injuries resulted from the fire.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) said in a statement Saturday his office would assist local and federal law enforcement agencies in the investigation, reported the International Business Times.

“This act of violence has no place in a free society,” Ferguson said. “I urge everyone to join me in condemning this cowardly, reckless and criminal act of intimidation and public endangerment.”

The fire caused significant damage that may keep the facility closed for at least a month, and the organization will look for a temporary location. The clinic did not provide abortion services, but provided other reproductive health care including family planning and sexual health services.

Karl Eastlund, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, said in a statement that the arson was a predictable consequence of the rhetoric being used by anti-choice legislators and activists against the women’s health-care organization.

“This is an appalling act of violence towards Planned Parenthood, but unfortunately a predictable ripple effect from the false and incendiary attacks that fuel violence from extremists,” Eastlund said.

The Pullman clinic was recently the site of a large anti-choice protest in response to a series of videos spreading misinformation about the organization. That series of heavily-edited videos, published by an anti-choice front group, has been trumpeted by Republican lawmakers as reason to defund Planned Parenthood. 

The protest at the Pullman clinic was one of many on August 22 during the “National Day of Protest,” which was organized and coordinated by a host of prominent anti-choice organizations.

A Washington state GOP lawmaker at the Pullman rally called Planned Parenthood an “evil organization,” and said the services provided are comparable to the atrocities committed in Nazi Germany.

“I am glad to see finally they have been exposed for what they are,” Rep. Matt Shea said, reported the Spokesman-Review. “There is no difference between Planned Parenthood, and what Dr. Josef Mengele did in Germany in the 1940s.”

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R) accused Planned Parenthood of conducting “illegal activities” during a town hall meeting last month in Spokane, reported the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

McMorris-Rodgers was apparently referring to the videos produced and published by the Center for Medical Progress that have been repeatedly shown to be misleading and deceptively edited.

“I believe we need to investigate [Planned Parenthood],” McMorris-Rodgers said. “We need to better understand what they’re doing. From what I’ve seen, these are illegal activities in which they’re involved.”

David Daleiden, the project lead of CMP, said in a statement to the Daily Beast that the organization opposes acts of violence against abortion providers. “The Center for Medical Progress does not support vigilante violence against abortion providers, and I would just echo what Planned Parenthood said in that we’re grateful no one was injured,” Daleiden said.

While Daleiden may disavow violence against abortion providers, questions have been raised about CMP’s deceptive tactics, ideological agenda, and connections to radical and violent anti-choice activists.

The fire at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman is just the latest in a series of acts of anti-choice violence against reproductive health-care providers this year.

Two acts of vandalism were seen in Louisiana last month. An unidentified person poured gasoline on a recently laid foundation and a security guard’s car at the construction site of the Planned Parenthood facility in New Orleans, and another person was arrested and charged with a hate crime for allegedly removing signs at an abortion clinic in Metairie, Louisiana.

There was an act of vandalism at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in March, as an unidentified person destroyed some of the Mississippi clinic’s security cameras and a generator. Footage was captured of a person on the clinic property before the security cameras were destroyed.

A report released in February found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against women’s health clinics have doubled since 2010. Reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that radical anti-choice activists have been emboldened by a wave of GOP legislative attacks on reproductive rights.

There is a history of anti-choice violence in the Pacific Northwest. A Planned Parenthood clinic in Spokane Valley was bombed in 1996. Four men, all members of a white supremacist anti-choice group, were convicted in the bombing.

All Families Healthcare, a family medicine and reproductive health-care facility in Kalispell, Montana, was severely vandalized in March of 2014. Susan Cahill, a physician assistant who manages the office, told Rewire that she believes the break-in was part of a coordinated effort to intimidate the facility into no longer providing abortion care.

Zachary Klundt, who has connections to an anti-choice group, was sentenced in June to five years in prison after he plead guilty in April to felony burglary, criminal mischief, and theft.

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