The fallout continues from the cooked-up controversy over “sting” recordings purporting to depict illegal activity by Planned Parenthood. This time, it’s hit close to home: Claremont, New Hampshire, where a hatchet-wielding vandal caused extensive damage recently to the nonprofit’s health center there.

Police caught the offender because they’d increased patrols in the area two weeks earlier, after the word “murderer” was spray painted on the facility’s wall. Anti-abortion activists and politicians have expressed their views in more sophisticated language. Their message, though, has been equally free of context and just as harmful.

An unidentified juvenile was arrested in the New Hampshire vandalism Oct. 21, after having allegedly destroyed computers and medical equipment, cut holes in walls and severed water and sewer lines. In response, the facility closed for the rest of the week. And all 21 clinics in northern New England — including four in Maine — are reviewing and, if needed, stepping up clinic security measures.

To keep Planned Parenthood patients and staff safe, that’s what has to happen. But the efforts divert energy from the operations of an organization that’s busy enough meeting its mission: providing not just abortion services or abortion referrals to women faced with unwanted pregnancies, but also affordable wellness exams, birth control and other basic care.

Meanwhile, opponents of Planned Parenthood – citing secretly made videos — have baselessly accused it of for-profit fetal tissue sales and sought to cut off its funding. They’ve deplored its “barbaric tactics,” called it “an ongoing criminal enterprise” and “our Auschwitz,” and accused it of “celebrating … (the) harvesting of organs of aborted fetuses for money.”

Multiple states have cleared Planned Parenthood of having broken any laws. Even U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chaired a recent House hearing investigating the organization, said afterward, “Did we find any wrongdoing? The answer was no.”

But the facts haven’t derailed the smear campaign. And the “sting” videos’ release has been followed by a spate of attacks on clinics: not just the two incidents in New Hampshire but also an attempted arson July 19 outside an Illinois health center’s front door; a car set ablaze Aug. 1 at a Planned Parenthood construction site in New Orleans; and firebombings in Washington state Sept. 4 and in California on Sept. 30.

Even if critics don’t succeed in defunding the organization, they’re implicitly encouraging lawbreakers whose actions disrupt clinic operations and make it harder for thousands of low-income and uninsured people to get the health services they need. It’s another battle in the war of attrition on reproductive care providers — and the toll is steadily mounting.

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