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Destruction of Knoxville Planned Parenthood due to arson impacts WNC

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Lilly Knoepp
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Because there is little abortion access across Western North Carolina, the destruction of the Knoxville, Tennessee clinic impacts the region.

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee burned down on New Year’s Eve, and investigators have confirmed arson was the cause.  The clinic was one of the few near Western North Carolina. 

Here’s how this impacts the region. Molly Rivera is a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. She says healthcare is connected – even across state lines.

“I can’t speak to really how many more patients will come to Asheville, but you know healthcare is a system and you know any time you lose a location in one place it has a rippling effect on the surrounding communities,” said Rivera.  

Only nine counties in North Carolina have clinics that offer abortion services, according to Planned Parenthood. The Knoxville clinic had been under construction and was nearing completion on a $2.2 million dollar renovation when it was burned down. The building has now been declared a complete loss. There currently aren’t any suspects.

“It is always a surprise to me to learn of acts of violence at a health center. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood is no stranger to acts of violence or destruction at our locations,” said Rivera. “It can be incredibly unnerving for particularly for people at those health centers like staff and patients.”  

A year ago, on the 48th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, a gunman fired a shotgun through the front doors of the same Knoxville location. Riveria says the organization is stepping up its security to keep patients and staff at other locations safe.

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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