A Planned Parenthood Clinic Went Up in Flames. It Was Arson.

Officials in Tennessee are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to prosecution.
planned-parenthood-east-tennesee-fire-arson
A fire that recently ravaged the only Planned Parenthood clinic in East Tennessee was caused by arson. (Photo by K

A fire that recently ravaged the only Planned Parenthood clinic in East Tennessee was caused by arson, local officials confirmed Thursday.

Officials are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to prosecution, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is ready to rebuild.

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“This is an appalling and heartbreaking act of violence towards Planned Parenthood, our patients, and our community. Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have mourned at this health center,” Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, said in a statement. “Although it will take time to rebuild, we are committed to our patients in East Tennessee and will not let this attack take away the essential health care services on which they rely.”

The Knoxville Planned Parenthood has been targeted before: Someone fired a shotgun at the clinic’s doors on January 22, 2021, the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. No one was hurt.

Incidents of arson, assault and battery, and vandalism against abortion providers all spiked in 2020, according to a recently released report by the National Abortion Federation, which tracks such violence and harassment. In 2019, there were 24 reports of assault and battery; by 2020, that had spiked to 54 reports. 

“We received reports of antiabortion individuals shoving, pushing, tripping, and spitting on clinic escorts, staff, and others outside of clinics,” the report noted. “These reports were particularly disturbing given the public health concerns around COVID-19 and the guidance to practice social distancing.”

Protests at abortion clinics continued throughout 2020, despite the dangers of the pandemic, as VICE News has reported. The National Abortion Federation also recorded an increase in threats of death and harm. In 2020, the Federation tracked 200 such threats, compared to 92 in 2019.

The Knoxville clinic was empty at the time of the fire, which erupted on New Year’s Eve. The building had recently been closed for a $2.2 million renovation.

Beyond the literal threats to abortion providers, the legal right to abortion is now teetering on the brink of collapse. Last month, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case involving an abortion ban in Mississippi, lawyers for the state openly urged the justices to overturn Roe. And several justices seemed open to it