July 14, 1996 in Nation/World

Clinic Will Stay In Business Director Says Security At Office Will Be Re-Evaluated

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Sandra Meicher had a sick look on her face.

On Saturday, the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Spokane and Whitman counties toured the blackened, shredded shell that a day earlier was the lobby of the group’s Valley office.

Friday’s pipe bomb explosion left a hole yawning two feet inside the front door. Jagged chunks of concrete and tile had rained across the lobby. The windows lay in sharp shards across the floor. The blast was so powerful it blew the backs off waiting room chairs.

But it makes no difference.

“They are not going to put us out of business,” Meicher said, voice thick with stifled emotion. “We need to make sure women have access to affordable health care.”

Despite the bombing, Meicher said Planned Parenthood will keep its Valley facility open. And although she is reevaluating security there, it won’t be a windowless “bunker.”

“We wouldn’t put up a steel door. If you’re going to go that route, you might as well block up the windows,” Meicher said. “I mean, this is a health care clinic.”

The bombers smashed the clinic’s glass front door, tossed in a pipe explosive and fled. The same culprits are believed to have then robbed the U.S. Bank at Mullan and Sprague.

“It’s a mess,” said Kevin Uphus, a Valley firefighter checking out the scene Saturday. “This is why we came down - to see what a pipe bomb does.”

“It does a lot,” added Jon Sprague, another firefighter.

Meicher won’t disclose what new safety measures will be put in place.

“There are some limits on how far you can go,” she said, adding that even the federal government couldn’t keep its military base in Saudi Arabia from being bombed.

“This was considered one of the safest buildings in the (area) Planned Parenthood family,” Meicher said. “No abortions, no surgical procedures are conducted here.”

The Pines clinic provided examinations to detect breast and cervical cancer or sexually-transmitted diseases. It also distributes contraceptives.

“Who in their right mind would want to see those services stopped?” Meicher said. “No one wants to see diseases untreated and spread around.”

Saturday, she didn’t know when the facility would reopen.

Thomas Gerard, one of the building’s owners, said Planned Parenthood has been an ideal renter and he wouldn’t want to lose it as a tenant. “Our lease calls for us to fix any calamity rapidly,” he said. “It will be our intention to rebuild. It will be our intention to have them back in business in two to three weeks.”

Planned Parenthood staffers roamed through the rubble with forlorn faces, snapping pictures to submit to an insurance company. “There is certainly a tremendous sense of despair and sadness,” Meicher said. “Feeling someone is directing a hate crime against you is a powerful feeling.”

Gerard guesses the blast did $15,000 worth of damage to his building. Meicher guessed she lost $50,000 to $70,000 in equipment.

And Meicher said she’ll replace it, terrorists or not.

“I don’t think Americans want to live in a society that is a war zone.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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