Illinois Planned Parenthood fire investigated as arson – USA TODAY

Amid rising reports of violence against abortion clinics, a fire at a central Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic is being investigated as arson, police and fire officials said Tuesday.
The fire comes just days after Illinois enacted sweeping abortion protections.
No patients of staff members were inside the clinic during the fire, said Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois in a statement. But the fire caused “significant damage” to the building in Peoria, an Illinois city about 150 miles southwest of Chicago, Welch said.
Peoria police received a report of an “unknown person throwing a Molotov cocktail” into the clinic at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday, police spokesperson Semone Roth said. No suspects have been identified, Roth said.
The clinic closed Tuesday and rescheduled patients who had appointments to other health care centers, Roth said.
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Here’s what we know:
Anti-abortion group responds: Mary Kate Zander, executive director of the anti-abortion organization Illinois Right to Life said in a statement “we would never condone violence against any Planned Parenthood or any other abortion clinic.”
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Just days before the fire, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed into law sweeping reproductive health care legislation.
The law seeks to protect people traveling from out-of-state to access abortion care in Illinois from legal action.
“Here in Illinois, we know that reproductive care is health care,” Pritzker said in a statement Friday.
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In 2021, abortion providers saw a 600% increase in stalking, a 129% increase in invasions and a 128% increase in assaults and battery compared to the year before, according to a report released in May 2022 by the National Abortion Federation, the U.S. professional association of abortion providers. Assaults rose from 15 in 2018 to 123 in 2021, the report said.
Since 1977, when NAF began collecting this data, the organization has reported 11 murders, 42 bombings, 196 arsons and 491 assaults targeting patients, providers and volunteers at abortion clinics.
Most abortion care providers have long been trained to expect violence “as part of our everyday jobs,” wrote Dr. Colleen P. McNicholas, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri in St. Louis, Mo., in a USA TODAY opinion column last week.
A Republican-led House also voted last week to pass a measure condemning attacks on anti-abortion facilities and churches — a move reproductive rights advocates condemned as disingenuous, arguing it ignores mounting violence and threats against abortion providers and people seeking abortion care.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Contact Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

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