Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman reopens six months after arson attack

By:  Joel Connelly
Source: Seattle PI

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, serving Washington State University and the University of Idaho, reopened Friday almost exactly six months after it was largely destroyed in an arson attack.

"COURAGE. Planned Parenthood is standing back up for reproductive health after firebomb," U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., tweeted early Friday.

The arson attack on Sept. 4, 2015, has not been solved.  It has been investigated as a terrorist act by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The state's first lady, Trudi Inslee, is on hand in Pullman to celebrate the reopening. 

Gov. Jay Inslee, in a statement, praised the clinic;'s operators, who set up a tend in the parking lot of their burned-out facility, and continued to provide some health services.

"Here in the state of Washington, we're not going backward on reproductive health and rights," said the governor. "We have a long, proud history of supporting a full range of medical care for women, and violence and intimidation can never undermine this."

The clinic serves about 3,000 persons in the Palouse of southeast Washington. 

It provides cervical cancer screenings, birth control, sexual- transmitted illness testing and treatment, annual exams, as well as abortion services. Abortion accounts for a small percentage of the health services at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Planned Parenthood has come under attack since an anti-abortion group released heavily edited tapes, made undercover, that claimed to show Planned Parenthood executives engaged in the marketing of fetal tissue.

The attacks have been particularly intense in Eastern Washington.

State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, likened Planned Parenthood to what Dr. Josef Mengele did "in Germany" during World War II.  Mengele was the "angel of death" at Auschwitz. The extermination camp was in Poland.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., a member of the House Republican leadership, continued to attack Planned Parenthood after the arson attack.  Pullman is in McMorris Rodgers' district.

McMorris Rodgers has accused Planned parenthood of (unspecified) "horrendous acts" and (unsubstantiated) "unethical and illegal practices."

"What kind of a country are we if we think #PPFA's actions are acceptable?"  McMorris Rodgers asked in a tweet.

McMorris Rodgers has not specifically condemned the Pullman arson attack.

But Planned Parenthood has friends. WSU Regent Don Barbieri and partner Sharon Smith, through their Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, matched contributions toward the rebuilding of the clinic.

Barbieri issues a mascot-specific appeal to WSU Cougars, UW Dawgs, Eastern Washington University Eagles and University of Idaho Vandals to help in rebuilding the PP health center.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has been an outspoken Planned Parenthood backer, and said Friday: "Over the last six months, the Pullman Planned Parenthood staff and community has made sure that even in the face of violence and hardship, the care was still available to those who needed it.

"That's a real inspiration, and I'm so glad that today, with the reopening of the center, they will be able to continue their critical work."

Karl Eastland, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Northern Idaho, summed up feelings as the clinic reopened:

"We've been serving the Palouse community for 30 years, and we are honored to be the provider of choice for the thousands of students, women, men and families who rely on us for high quality, compassionate reproductive health care and education."