The Pullman (WA) Fire Department and the Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force have determined that arson was the cause for a fire that burned a Planned Parenthood health center early Friday morning. The blaze was set at around 3:30 a.m. on Friday, and the structural damage from the fire was substantial. The facility may be closed for a month or longer, according to Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Tanya Riordan.
This apparent terrorist attack comes amidst a growing wave of death threats against Planned Parenthood employees and other health professionals, who provide abortion or contraceptive services nationwide. While an exact motive for the arson has not been determined, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are involved in the investigation, because of the long history of domestic terrorists targeting facilities that provide reproductive services for women.
The Pullman Planned Parenthood health center did not perform abortions, although they sometimes gave abortion referrals for clients.
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.
Anti-choice terrorists seem to be escalating their war on women, emboldened by a string of heavily edited videos, that falsely portray Planned Parenthood as an organization that profits from abortion. Attacks on women’s health clinics, however, are nothing new to the region, as the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest have been targeted by violent right-wing activists a number of times.
In 1996, four White supremacists bombed a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Spokane Valley. From 1992 to 1997, anti-choice terrorist Richard Andrews burned at least eight women’s health clinics in several states, leaving a trail of destruction that stretched from Central Montana to Northern California.
While nobody was directly injured in the Pullman fire, the targeting of women’s health facilities is clearly an act of aggression, designed to intimidate women and to deny them access to contraceptive and abortion services. The arsonist who struck the Pullman facility is not in custody, so the exact motives of the attack are still unknown. However, it seems almost certain, given the existing political climate and the region’s history of domestic terrorism, that the decision to set the Planned Parenthood building ablaze was a political act.
Interestingly, while Republican leaders have been issuing statement after statement condemning the jailing of anti-gay Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, they have been conspicuously silent about condemning the burning of a woman’s health care center in Washington State. That speaks volumes about where their priorities lie.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.