Small fire under investigation at Planned Parenthood clinic

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 30: A Planned Parenthood office is seen on November 30, 2015 in New York City. A gunman killed three people November 27, including a police officer, at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Authorities say they’re investigating a suspicious fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Missouri that is seeking to regain its ability to offer abortions.

Columbia police said officers responded to an alarm at the clinic on Sunday around 4 a.m. A small fire had started inside the structure and the building’s sprinkler system extinguished it. Firefighters told police the blaze was “suspicious in nature,” according to a statement from the police department.

Police spokesman Jeff Pitts said Monday that the investigation was ongoing and that he couldn’t discuss the cause of the blaze or whether it might be related to the abortion issue.

No clinic staff or patients were present when the fire started, and there were no injuries, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Emily Miller said. The clinic was closed Monday amid the investigation, but the organization said the facility would reopen as soon as possible.

“We are working with law enforcement, as the source of the fire is suspicious and the incident is currently under investigation,” Miller said in a statement released Sunday.

Planned Parenthood was required to stop providing abortions at the clinic last year after new regulations went into effect requiring abortion doctors to have certain privileges with a nearby hospital.

The Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic has been unable to secure physician privileges or find a doctor with those privileges after a panel of medical staff at University of Missouri Health Care voted to stop offering those privileges altogether in 2015. The vote came amid a Republican-led legislative investigation on abortion in the state.

Missouri is down to one clinic offering abortions. That clinic is in St. Louis.

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