A local Planned Parenthood clinic was targeted Sunday night in Grand Chute, Wis. No motive was immediately known, and though Wisconsin hasn’t played a central role in the debate over women’s access to contraception, the approaching GOP primary and the heated recall fight in the state have elevated tensions there.
According to police, a device that “consisted of a plastic bottle and chemical agents” was placed outside a window at the Grand Chute Planned Parenthood clinic Sunday night. No one was injured when the device exploded, but Planned Parenthood Wisconsin said in a statement that a small fire caused by the explosion caused “minimal damage to one of the exam rooms.”
Though an investigation (including federal authorities) is just getting under way and the motivations for the bombing are still unknown, Republicans in Wisconsin quickly tried to put distance between the incident and the heated rhetoric directed at Planned Parenthood by some members of their party. One Democratic leader, on the other hand, said it was more likely than not that politics played a role in bringing the battle over women’s rights arrived in Wisconsin this week ahead of Tuesday’s primary vote.
All sides agree that Planned Parenthood hasn’t been the central focus in Wisconsin like it has on the national level — though the Republican-controlled legislature did follow its national counterparts and set their sights on defunding the Wisconsin branch of the group last year — but the leader of the Democrats in the state Senate said the bombing suggests extremist voices have had an impact on the Badger State.
“We don’t know what the purpose of the incendiary device at the Planned Parenthood clinic was, but you tend to think there’s some sort of a political statement trying to be made,” state Sen. Mark Miller (D) told TPM. “Planned Parenthood has become a partisan issue.”
It’s not the first time a local Planned Parenthood clinic has been targeted. Last year, a Texas clinic was firebombed in a way that mimicked past attacks on abortion clinics.
Miller said “most of the discussion about Planned Parenthood has been at the Republican presidential issue, more so than here at the state level.” Now that the presidential race has landed in Wisconsin, the candidates may have brought the amped-up attacks on Planned Parenthood with them, he said.
“There’s been almost unbelievable rhetoric about women’s health in this presidential debate that actually has brought the whole discussion about women’s access to contraception back into the discussion,” he said. “That’s something that was a settled deal 30 years ago. There’s no question that the political rhetoric on women’s health issues has reemerged as an important point of division.”
Some Republicans condemned the bombing and sought to separate it from the rhetorical attacks on Planned Parenthood that are a mainstay of the GOP’s agenda. A spokesman for the state Republican Party declined to comment on the issue to TPM.
But others opened up about the bombing, condemning the action but reaffirming their commitment to ending the organization.
“While we can and should work to defund Planned Parenthood and push back against government mandates that force Americans and religious institution to violate their faith, violence against our fellow citizens has no place in a freedom-loving America,” Rick Santorum, who’s been at the forefront of the debate over contraception and abortion for years and is pushing hard for an upset win in Wisconsin Tuesday, told TPM in a statement.
State Rep. Michelle Litjens (R), who represents Grand Chute in the state legislature, is a member of Wisconsin Right To Life and a strong critic of Planned Parenthood. She cautioned against associating the bombing with her fellow anti-abortion advocates and complained that the bomber, whatever his or her motivation, may tar the opposition to Planned Parenthood with the crime.
“I don’t believe this is politically motivated, I think this is some crazy person doing something really stupid,” she said. “Bombing a Planned Parenthood is doing nothing about the abortion issue other than calling it to the center of attention and making people who oppose abortion look like they’re out to do something bad.”