Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Saturday his office would help local and federal law enforcement find whoever was behind an arson attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, a college town about 285 miles east of Seattle at the border with Montana. Local police said they discovered the building was on fire with smoke billowing out of a broken window after responding early Friday to a burglar alarm.
“This act of violence has no place in a free society,” Ferguson said in a statement posted by KHQ-TV, Spokane. “I urge everyone to join me in condemning this cowardly, reckless and criminal act of intimidation and public endangerment.”
No injuries were reported, but the fire did extensive damage to the facility run by the nonprofit women’s health services provider with roots dating back to 1916. Planned Parenthood offers affordable health services, like cancer screening, that benefit low-income women and children, but it also provides abortions, which has long made it a target of social conservatives who oppose the procedure largely on religious grounds.
“This is an appalling act of violence toward Planned Parenthood, but unfortunately a predictable ripple effect from the false and incendiary attacks that fuel violence from extremists,” Karl Eastlund, a regional director of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood has been under increased scrutiny since the release of undercover videos purportedly showing a Planned Parenthood executive discussing the sale of cells from aborted fetuses. The videos, produced by anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, have led to cyberattacks against the group and calls to cut off government funding. Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million in state and federal reimbursements last year.
Planned Parenthood denies attempting to sell tissue from aborted fetuses, which would be illegal, but does “help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality healthcare provider does.” Planned Parenthood is allowed like other healthcare facilities to recoup costs to cover expenses associated with the donation of fetal tissue.
Medical scientists have lashed out at the politicization behind the use of fetal tissue in lifesaving research.
"We have a duty to use fetal tissue for research and therapy," R. Alta Charo of the University of Wisconsin wrote in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. "And that duty includes taking advantage of avenues of hope for current and future patients, particularly if those avenues are being threatened by a purely political fight."