• Health

    Montana Planned Parenthood continues services after gunshots

    A pink sign reads “These doors stay open” outside a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Helena Monday, which saw  a wave of community and patient support, after a man fired two rounds from a shotgun at the facility last week.

    “Planned Parenthood is here for the long haul, we’re not going anywhere,” said Planned Parenthood of Montana spokesperson Mary Sullivan on Monday. “Montanans are going to continue to seek reproductive and sexual health care, whatever they either need or want, and we’re proud to provide that care for them.”

    No one was injured or fired at, according to a Helena Police Department social media post. Planned Parenthood of Montana said the incident took place after the clinic had closed.

    Montana politicians commented on the incident after it was reported by the Montana Free Press on Friday, with some blaming heated rhetoric surrounding abortion for the violence. Acts of violence against abortion providers isn’t new to Montana, or even the clinic in Helena.

    The Helena Police Department asked residents to help identify the suspected man who fired the shots at the clinic, captured by security footage, in a social media post Friday. Police could not be reached Monday, a legal holiday, for an update on the investigation.

    Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, spoke on social media to the relationship between heated rhetoric on abortion and incidents like what happened at the Helena clinic.

    “Every political figure who drums up fear around abortion, sex ed., etc., is fanning the flames of real violence,” Zephyr said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

    Sullivan of Planned Parenthood said Zephyr is spot on.

    “I don’t want to speculate on the exact motivations of this incident but anti-abortion rhetoric and misinformation and talking about reproductive and sexual health care in a way that is stigmatizing or false is really dangerous,” Sullivan said.

    She said the Attorney General making false claims the organization is tied to human trafficking is an example of said rhetoric.

    “It’s a political statement to serve an elected official’s own interests, rather than anything that’s based in fact,” Sullivan said. “Your average person might take those words at their face value and go with that…I’m not saying that that’s what happened here. But scenarios like that have existed.”

    U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, the lone Democrat in Montana’s congressional delegation and running for re-election, said in a post on X he strongly condemned the “violent threat.”

    “No woman should ever feel threatened while seeking healthcare in Montana,” Tester posted.

    The New York Times reported the Helena clinic was “heavily damaged” in an arson in 1992.

    Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a slew of anti-abortion legislation this past session, several of which were temporarily blocked by a judge less than a month after becoming law.

    Abortion remains legal in Montana after the 1999 Armstrong vs. State decision protected the right to a woman’s reproductive care under the state’s medical privacy protections under the constitution. Montana’s Supreme Court reaffirmed Armstrong in a decision this summer ruling advanced practice nurse practitioners can perform abortions.

    Staff at the clinic are continuing to rely on their safety protocols, Sullivan said, adding she’s heard from patients since the incident who have reached out to say they feel safe there.

    Sullivan said patients, community members and local businesses have flooded the clinic with support following the incident.

    One local business, Montana Book Company, donated a portion of their Saturday profits to Planned Parenthood, $361 according to Essie Etchingham working at the store Monday. The General Mercantile, a local coffee shop, also posted on Instagram in support following the shots fired.

    “Per yesterday, per tomorrow, per always — the Merc supports Planned Parenthood,” the post read.

    This article from the Daily Montanan appears in this post, with permission, under a Creative Commons BY ND-NC 4.0 license.

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