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Vandal shatters windows at St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic

The windows and the glass on the door of the Planned Parenthood clinic on South Grand Boulevard in St. Louis were shattered by a vandal on Saturday.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo
The windows and the glass on the door of the Planned Parenthood clinic on South Grand Boulevard in St. Louis were shattered by a vandal on Saturday.

Updated at 12 p.m. on December 12, 2015, with information on the arrest:

St. Louis police arrested a 43-year-old St. Louis woman in connection with an incident of vandalism at a Planned Parenthood clinic on South Grand Boulevard. 

The circuit attorney's office has charged Maria Terry, from south St. Louis near Carondelet Park, with first degree property damage. A judge issued a $20,000 cash-only bond. 

Our original story:

Several large glass windows and a door at a Planned Parenthood center in St. Louis were shattered by a vandal Saturday morning, causing "thousands of dollars" in damages, according to the organization's regional president and CEO.

"Someone came and literally busted all of our windows, throwing rocks at our windows, and it seems to be that it was specifically targeting Planned Parenthood, this act of violence and vandalism," said Mary Kogut , head of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

"It’s a very unfortunately act of vandalism and violence against a health care provider," she said.

The South Grand Boulevard center was closed at the time of the incident, and no one was hurt, Kogut said. She also said police had someone in custody, though an email to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department was not immediately returned.

Citing police and eyewitnesses, Kogut said the "disturbing" and "outrageous" act of vandalism appeared to be related to the pregnancy prevention and abortion services Planned Parenthood provides. However, the organization's reproductive health center on Forest Park Avenue, not the South Grand clinic, serves as the state's only abortion provider. 

"We unfortunately can’t stop everything," she said. "As a health care provider, it’s very unfortunate that we even have to worry about this type of activity."

The vandalism at the St. Louis center comes on the heels of an attack last month on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., in which a gunman with anti-abortion views killed three people. 

Since those attacks, Kogut said the St. Louis clinics have stepped up security, increased training and evaluated their procedures. Still, she reports more picketing at area clinics and more calls "from people who are saying pretty hateful things."

"It needs to stop, this kind of violent and hateful rhetoric that is creating this type of activity," she said. "We need to be able to find another way to talk about our differences when we talk about reproductive health care."

Planned Parenthood supporters rally in 2015 outside the agency's clinic in St. Louis after a mass shooting at a clinic in Colorado Springs.
Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Planned Parenthood supporters rally outside the agency's midtown clinic on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015.

Kogut said Planned Parenthood has also seen a "tremendous amount of support" from the St. Louis community for its well-woman and well-man health care services. She also reassured the public that the S. Grand location will be open come Monday, albeit boarded up.

"We're here and we will work every day to continue to have a safe and welcoming environment for every person who needs us," she said.

Controversy over videos, abortion-procedure documents

Nationally and in Missouri, Planned Parenthood has been facing political criticism for months, beginning with last summer’s release of a series of videos by an anti-abortion group.

The edited videos alleged that Planned Parenthood operations in some states may be illegally profiting from the sale of aborted fetal remains for scientific research. National Planned Parenthood officials have denied breaking any laws, and emphasized that it’s up to the woman to decide whether she wants to donate the fetal tissues. 

In Missouri, Planned Parenthood officials have said their agencies don’t participate in any tissue-donation programs.  Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster conducted an investigation, and cleared the state’s two main Planned Parenthood operations.  Neither agency receives any state money, although Planned Parenthood nationally does receive some money through the federal portion of the Medicaid program for healthcare services not involving abortions.

Even so, a Missouri legislative panel has continued to conduct hearings and is raising questions, in particular, about any cooperation between the University of Missouri at Columbia and that city’s Planned Parenthood clinic.

The panel also is now attempting to investigate the St. Louis area Planned Parenthood operations, which have no ties to the Columbia clinic. 

The panel's chairman, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, is threatening legal action because the St. Louis operation is declining to turn over abortion-procedure documents. The agency’s lawyer replied that it will not do so, because of patient-privacy issues and the fact that Planned Parenthood is a private health-care organization.

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