January 30, 2023

Authorities in Peoria, Ill., continue to investigate an attack on a Planned Parenthood facility that occurred two days after the state’s governor signed abortion protections into law.



ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Authorities in Peoria, Ill., are investigating the firebombing of a Planned Parenthood facility. The attack happened just a few days after the state’s governor signed a bill into law that provides protections to abortion providers. Tim Shelley of member station WCBU reports.

TIM SHELLEY, BYLINE: The Planned Parenthood clinic in Peoria is expected to remain closed for months after a so-called incendiary device was thrown through a window late Sunday night. A new chain-link fence and police tape surround the building now in the days after the attack. Several windows are boarded up with plywood.

Police haven’t made any arrests yet, but they do have some clues. A security camera captured the image of a white pickup truck with a red driver’s side door. They believe it’s linked to the case.

Nobody was in the building when the fire started, but one firefighter suffered minor injuries. Peoria Mayor Rita Ali says the arsonist was clearly trying to send a message, but violence isn’t the right way.

RITA ALI: We have to be tough in cases like this. We have to have zero tolerance for these types of violent acts.

SHELLEY: The state is one of several that’s enshrined abortion protections into law. And legislation signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker last week shields Illinois providers and out-of-state patients seeking abortions from legal action. The Peoria Health Center doesn’t offer in-clinic abortions, but it does provide abortion pills and other sexual health treatments, including transgender hormone therapy.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood of Illinois President and CEO Jennifer Welch says senseless acts of vandalism are on the rise across the country. She says Illinois, an abortion safe haven, has become a target as extreme and divisive rhetoric increases. Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, traveling in central Illinois today, says the escalation and the type of violence that occurred in Peoria is terrifying.

DICK DURBIN: This violence in the American political life has to be condemned by both sides. I don’t care whether it comes from the right or the left. It is absolutely unacceptable, whether it’s in New Mexico or Peoria or anywhere.

SHELLEY: Damages to the Peoria clinic are estimated at $150,000. A Planned Parenthood spokesperson says patients are being referred to other clinics or scheduled for telehealth appointments. Employees will also be relocated to other clinics. The closest one is 40 miles away.

For NPR News, I’m Tim Shelley in Peoria, Ill.

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NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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