Planned Parenthood Great Plains staff remain resilient and dedicated to serving Columbia, after a long period of recovery following the incident
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Today in federal court, Wesley Brian Kaster was sentenced to five years in prison without parole after pleading guilty to committing arson at the Planned Parenthood Great Plains Columbia health center on Feb. 10, 2019. 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.
“When Mr. Kaster broke into our Columbia center in the early morning hours of February 10, 2019, he set fire to a building dedicated to improving the health of those who enter it,” Planned Parenthood Great Plains President and CEO Brandon Hill, PhD, said. “And although he may have intended to stop patients from seeking care at Planned Parenthood, the health center was closed for services for only a week. We are dedicated to our mission and we are resilient. Within days, the damaged portion of the building was sectioned off – and would remain that way for months – and patients were welcomed back to receive care.”
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, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.
“Attacking essential health care providers is unacceptable and against the law, whether it takes the form of violence and vandalism, or threats against our patients and health centers,” said Hill. “When we asked our staff during that first week after the fire for input about our plan to reopen, they were resolute: we should open as soon as possible. Patients come first. That was true last February and it’s true today, as we bring this chapter to a close.”
For questions about accessing safe, legal abortion care in your area, please call 1-800-230-PLAN.