East Tennessee's Sole Planned Parenthood Clinic Torched

Intentional fire set Dec. 31 was just the latest attack on the building
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2022 11:20 AM CST
East Tennessee's Sole Planned Parenthood Clinic Torched
Firefighters spray water to put out a fire at the Planned Parenthood building in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.   (Caitie McMekin/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

Planned Parenthood's only clinic in East Tennessee was destroyed by arson, fire officials announced Thursday following an investigation into the blaze that ripped through the Knoxville clinic on New Year's Eve. This confirms the second act of violence at the clinic within the past year. On Jan. 22, 2021, the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, a person fired a shotgun through the front door of the building while it was closed and unoccupied, leaving bullet holes in the reception area, per CNN and the Knoxville News Sentinel. The fire was likewise set while the building was unoccupied. It had been closed for several weeks for a renovation.

It took four hours for the Knoxville Fire Department to extinguish the blaze. Officials described the nearly 10,000-square-foot building as a "total loss." They "determined the fire to have been purposely set by an individual or individuals who, at this time, remain unidentified," a statement reads, per CNN. "The fact that the fire had already breached the roof indicated that the fire had been burning for some time prior to the department's arrival," Assistant Chief Mark Wilbanks adds, per WVLT. Authorities are asking for tips, with a possible reward of up $10,000 for information that leads to a prosecution.

Ashley Coffield, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, describes heartbreak at the arson but says officials are "determined to rebuild," per the News Sentinel. "We are committed to our patients in East Tennessee and will not let this attack take away the essential health care services on which they rely," she adds, per CNN. Though Planned Parenthood was referring patients to clinics in Nashville and Memphis during the renovation, the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health saw a major increase in patient numbers as a result. Indeed, WVLT describes a one- and two-week waiting period at this point. (Read more Planned Parenthood stories.)

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