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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Pullman clinic arson troubling, as is rhetoric

The arson attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman raises the fear that it was motivated by the protests of abortion clinics around the country after a series of surreptitious videos showed discussions about supplying fetal parts for medical research.

Though the topic is unpleasant, the videos did not show any illegal activity. Congress has voted to allow such research, with many “pro-life” representatives voting yes, and supplying clinics are allowed to recoup their costs.

The charge that Planned Parenthood is “selling” fetuses goes too far. Women who have abortions must consent, just as people do when they donate organs. Research universities and medical clinics are also involved, and they haven’t been targeted by activists. So it’s reasonable to assume the protests are just another chapter in the long-running effort to shut down Planned Parenthood.

This time it could lead to a damaging government shutdown, because some members of Congress want to cut off all funding to Planned Parenthood before they will consider passing a budget. Under the long-standing Hyde Amendment, Congress already bars government support for abortions. The funding Planned Parenthood receives is for other services, such as contraception, which heads off unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

If activists wanted to effectively prevent the next abortion, they would get behind contraception efforts. Birth control pills, condoms, IUDs and LARCSs (long-acting reversible contraceptives) are far more effective at preventing abortions than standing outside a clinic and beseeching women to change their minds. They’re more effective than bombing clinics or setting them on fire, too.

On Sept. 4, somebody tossed a flammable object through a window at the Pullman clinic. The early-morning blaze caused extensive damage that will keep the clinic closed for about a month. Speculation, of course, is that the heightened anti-abortion protests sparked this crime.

But we simply don’t know at this point. We are going through a period where political motives are attached to every crime. If a police officer is attacked, that’s blamed on the “Black Lives Matter” movement. If Planned Parenthood is attacked, that’s the fault of “pro-life” rhetoric.

The arson attack is disturbing enough, and there is a long history of violent attacks on Planned Parenthood. White supremacists bombed the Spokane clinic in 1996. Since 1976, 40 clinics have been bombed and 186 acts of arson have been committed against abortion providers, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Two weeks before the Pullman fire, protesters gathered outside Planned Parenthood in north Spokane. State Rep. Matt Shea compared the clinic’s work to that of notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.

Talk like that may not necessarily light a fuse, but it sure is irresponsible.

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