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Federal authorities today announced an arrest in connection with arson at the Planned Parenthood Great Plains Columbia health center on Sunday, Feb. 10. The FBI investigated the fire as a federal civil rights violation under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The incident took place early in the morning and caused no injuries, but damage to the facility forced a weeklong closure for repairs. The Columbia health center reopened on Feb. 18 and resumed offering a range of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, cancer screenings, transgender care and more.

“We are grateful for law enforcement’s swift and serious response to this crime,” Planned Parenthood Great Plains President and CEO Dr. Brandon J. Hill said. “Let this send a clear message: Blocking access to essential health care is against the law, whether it takes the form of violence and vandalism or threats against our patients, our providers, or our supporters. With sexual and reproductive health care under attack in Missouri, our mission is more important than ever before. Health care is a human right, and we will not stop fighting for the rights of our patients. Our doors are open in Columbia, and we remain committed to serving this community.”

The Columbia health center provides services including family planning, STI testing and treatment, cancer screenings, transgender care, and more. Abortion services are not currently available in Columbia; at present, Missouri has just a single abortion provider, in the St. Louis area. The Columbia health center has been at the center of a protracted fight over abortion access in Missouri. The health center was forced to suspend abortion services in October 2018, when a medically unnecessary admitting privileges requirement took effect. Planned Parenthood continues to challenge the requirement, which is virtually identical to one struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Due to the sustained efforts of extreme politicians, Missouri is among the most restrictive states in the country for abortion access. Missouri lawmakers are currently considering extreme legislation that would make abortion illegal in nearly all circumstances.

“Abortion is incredibly safe, yet politicians continue to pursue restrictions that defy medical experts and make abortion as inaccessible as possible,” Hill said. “Anti-abortion legislators are racing to challenge Roe v. Wade at the U.S. Supreme Court. At a time when our state’s maternal mortality rate is increasing, we should be doing everything we can to increase access to reproductive health care. These attacks on health care aren’t just bad politics — they’re dangerous.”

For questions about accessing safe, legal abortion care in your area, please call 1-800-230-PLAN.

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