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Abortion Clinics Arm Themselves Guards Hired Or Increased As Operators Seek Protection

Abortion clinic operators around the country hired armed guards or simply armed themselves Tuesday as they reacted to the latest outbreak of anti-abortion violence in two states.

A Toledo, Ohio, clinic that was firebombed in the 1980s demanded protection from federal marshals. A clinic doctor in Arizona was packing a gun and wearing a bulletproof vest. In Concord, N.H., there were two armed guards on duty at the Concord Feminist Health Center, where before there had only occasionally been one.

The stepped-up security was the result of the shootings at clinics in Brookline, Mass., and Norfolk, Va., on Friday and Saturday that left two people dead and five wounded.

Police say John C. Salvi III, a 22-year-old student hairdresser, opened fire in the Massachusetts clinics, killing two receptionists and wounding five bystanders before traveling to Virginia the next day and shooting out the windows of another clinic.

He was arrested in Virginia.

Salvi was ordered held without bail in Virginia Tuesday. He had been charged hours earlier with two counts of murder in the deaths of the office workers.

President Clinton on Monday ordered the creation of police task forces to study how to avert violence at abortion clinics. He also told U.S. marshals to consult with clinics in their areas about potential threats.

Some of those meetings took place or were scheduled Tuesday.

Even before the shootings, some clinic operators said, they had already done about all they could to deter violence, including hiring armed guards, enlisting volunteers to escort patients into clinics, outfitting doctors with bulletproof vests and installing security cameras.

“Violence against clinics didn’t start three days ago,” said Pat Miller, a member of the board of the Women’s Health Services clinic in Pittsburgh.

“It probably started 10 years ago. We responded way back then.”

Elsewhere, Associated Press reporters who visited clinics around the country Tuesday saw evidence of new security measures.

Dr. Brian Finkel, who has performed abortions in his Phoenix clinic since 1982, said he wears a bulletproof vest and carries a gun to work.

He said Phoenix police agreed Tuesday to also watch his office for anti-abortion extremists.

“I’m not going to allow them to interfere with the health of my patients,” Finkel said.


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