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Abortion Clinic Is Firebombed

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A container of flammable liquid, possibly a Molotov cocktail, was hurled through a window of a North Hollywood abortion clinic Friday and set off a small fire, a rare outbreak of anti-abortion violence in the San Fernando Valley.

The Family Planning Associates Medical Group clinic located in the 12900 block of Victory Boulevard was the target of the 3:48 a.m. attack, authorities said.

The fire caused $500 damage to the building and $500 to the contents but went out by itself before firefighters arrived, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. Nobody was injured.

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Clinic operators declined to discuss the incident, and it was unclear whether the attack had any effect on its operations Friday.

No arrests were made in connection with the fire. Authorities detained one man, but he was released after questioning.

Agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are heading the investigation, aided by the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Criminal Conspiracy Division and the Los Angeles Fire Department’s arson unit, said Jim Adamcik, assistant special agent in charge of the Los Angeles division of the BATF. The BATF and FBI are part of a national task force that investigates attacks on abortion clinics.

Attacks on Southern California abortion clinics “are not widespread,” Adamcik said.

“It is, however, something we’ll always be concerned about because of the national significance,” he said. “There will always be a full-scale investigation on fires, bombings or damage to abortion clinics.

“We have pretty good lines of communications established with all the abortion providers in our area. They know exactly who we are and where we are and any time they get threats they are directed to notify us. We periodically talk to them and make contact.”

He added that investigators have not determined whether Friday’s incident in North Hollywood is related to attacks on abortion clinics in San Diego, San Luis Obispo and Newport Beach in the last several years.

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He knew of no recent threats against the clinic, Adamcik said, but added that he expects Los Angeles police to increase patrols in the neighborhood as a result of the attack.

Although the North Hollywood clinic has been the site of several protests by anti-abortion groups over the last 12 years, violent attacks on clinics in the Valley have been rare. A doctor at a Van Nuys clinic who sought a court order against protesters in 1993 alleged in a complaint that protesters broke a clinic window, poured acid inside and set the building afire.

Protest demonstrations have been far more common. Since 1985, there have been abortion-related demonstrations in Burbank, Van Nuys, Pacoima and North Hollywood, as well as Canyon Country in the Santa Clarita Valley.

A burglar alarm went off at the North Hollywood clinic Friday morning, and LAPD officers who had been patrolling just a block away found “smoke coming from a broken window in the front of the clinic” and called firefighters, Adamcik said.

Adamcik said a flammable liquid was thrown through the window and that evidence retrieved from the scene has been sent to a Los Angeles Fire Department laboratory to determine what it was. He added that there may have been a container--possibly a Molotov cocktail--involved that will be processed for fingerprints.

A private guard regularly monitors the narrow parking area behind the clinic during daytime hours, but no guards are posted at night, workers at nearby shops said.

Workers at the North Hollywood clinic were seen Friday replacing a glass door and interior carpeting and wallboards possibly damaged by the fire. A security guard prohibited reporters from entering, referring all questions to the Long Beach corporate headquarters of the Family Planning Associates Medical Group, where company executives refused to discuss the incident.

Peter Snow, who works at a nearby flower shop and grew up in the neighborhood, said the clinic has operated out of the same location for at least 15 years. He said anti-abortion protesters picketed the clinic in the past but there was no indication of recent opposition.

In the past decade, several other Family Planning Associates Medical Group clinics in Southern California have also been targeted by demonstrators and assailants.

A member of a conservative religious congregation was arrested in July of 1987 after he allegedly planted a bomb at one of the group’s clinics in San Diego. At least 242 people were arrested in April of 1990 after a violence-marred, seven-hour siege by abortion protesters at a group clinic in Los Angeles.

And a Superior Court judge in Westminster in May of 1995 issued a preliminary order prohibiting anti-abortion protesters at the group’s clinic in Orange from using a bullhorn, trespassing or blocking access to the clinic in response to a suit filed by the group.

Although two explosions at an abortion clinic in Atlanta on Jan. 16 injured six people, abortion providers nationwide reported fewer incidents of violence in 1996 than in recent years.

Abortion rights advocates attributed the decline to a new law, the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for those who impede access to clinics by clients or medical personnel.

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The San Fernando Valley Chapter of the National Organization for Women denounced the attack as “an outrageous attempt to force compulsory pregnancy on women,” according to Jan Tucker, a spokesman for the San Fernando Valley NOW chapter.

“The bombing of a clinic in our backyard only serves to remind us of the scores of terrorist bombings throughout the nation and in California by anti-abortion fanatics,” he said.

Intimidation of abortion providers, he said, is “the prime reason why facilities for safe and legal abortions are not available in 89% of American counties, because of the kooks and fanatics who don’t believe that women have the right to control their own bodies.”

Representatives of anti-abortion groups could not be located for comment.


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