Shots Fired into Front of Planned Parenthood Clinic in Helena

No injuries were reported. Police said a suspect was not in custody as of Friday.

By Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press

A person fired two shotgun rounds into the front entry of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Helena Thursday evening, according to local police and a spokesperson from Planned Parenthood of Montana. 

No injuries were reported from the shooting, which took place shortly before 5:45 p.m. 

Helena police officers could not be reached Thursday night for comment about the incident. In a Friday morning statement, Helena Police Department Assistant Chief Corey Bailey said officers responded to reports of gunshot in the neighborhood at 5:44 p.m. and were subsequently called by a business informing them that someone had shot “the front entry of their business.” 

“It was determined that an individual had walked up to the front of the business and fired two rounds from a shotgun. There were no injuries reported and the shots were not directed towards anyone,” the statement said. “Officers and detectives were able to develop suspect information and the case is active.”

Bailey later confirmed to Montana Free Press that no suspects are in custody at this time. He declined to say whether officers and detectives have video surveillance footage of the shooter from around the building’s premises.

In a statement Friday morning, Planned Parenthood of Montana communications coordinator Mary Sullivan confirmed that no injuries occured as a result of the shooting. She declined to say whether anyone was in the building at the time of the incident.

“Last evening after closing, the exterior of Planned Parenthood of Montana’s Helena location was shot at. No injuries occurred. We do not yet know the full circumstances behind the incident and are working with law enforcement to investigate. At this time, we have no further details to share,” Sullivan said. “Our focus is on our team, our patients, and ensuring safety by coordinating with law enforcement. Our doors will remain open and Planned Parenthood of Montana will never step back from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that Montanans rely on and trust.”

On Thursday evening, hours after the shooting took place, a large pink sign was attached to the window next to the clinic’s entrance, reading “These doors stay open.” Sullivan would not confirm whether the sign was covering where shots entered the building, citing the ongoing investigation. 

The shooting is the first report in recent years of a violent attack on an abortion clinic in Montana. In 2015, a man was sentenced to five years in state prison for vandalizing the All Families Healthcare clinic in Kalispell, forcing the Flathead Valley’s only abortion provider to close her practice. In 1993, Blue Mountain Clinic in Missoula was firebombed by an anti-abortion activist and later rebuilt. 

Violence and threats against abortion providers — as well as against anti-abortion groups and pregnancy resource centers — have ticked up nationwide in recent years. More than two dozen criminal cases are listed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website tracking prosecutions of “violence and other conduct” aimed at reproductive health care providers over the last decade. 

Pre-viability abortion has remained legal in Montana in the wake of the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade because of the state Constitution’s right to privacy and the Montana Supreme Court’s 1999 ruling in Armstrong v. State. Laws passed by Republican legislators and signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte to restrict abortion at all stages of pregnacy and add other requirements for abortion providers have been enjoined in court while litigation continues.

This story originally appeared in the Montana Free Press, which can be found online at montanafreepress.org.

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