Abortion Clinic Ablaze

Abortion Clinic Ablaze

   BAKERSFIELD, Calif., September 20 (AP) -- An abortion
clinic that had been the target of frequent demonstrations was
destroyed before dawn Monday by a fire that investigators
suspect was deliberately set.
   The four-alarm fire also destroyed two adjacent buildings
housing up to a dozen smaller businesses. Damage was estimated
at $1.4 million.
   The fire began at about 4 a.m. in the offices of Family
Planning Associates, city Fire Marshal Larry Toler said. An
initial investigation pointed to probable arson because of
"the nature of the fire, the way it spread so fast and the
fact that it burned so hot," he said.
   Police officers answering a burglar alarm found flames
shooting through the wood shingled roof, Toler said. Trees and
electrical lines across an alley about 30 feet from the fire
were scorched.
   The clinic had received no threats, said Mike Monji,
regional manager for Family Planning Associates. Bakersfield
is a farming and oil industry city of 200,000 residents 100
miles north of Los Angeles.
   Nationwide, there has been a rash of vandalism and violence
against abortion clinics, including the shootings of doctors
in Florida and Wichita, Kan., this year. The doctor in Florida
was killed.
   But there had been no hint from anti-abortion protests that
there would be violence at the Bakersfield clinic, said Debbie
Oldson, a legal assistant with a law firm that lost roughly
500 client files.
   "The demonstrations never worried us," Oldson said. "They
were very peaceful."
   Jerry Pennington, who was able to save the money box and a
singed box of client records from the rubble of his business
next to the clinic, said he opposes abortion but is angry that
someone may have set fire to the clinic.
   "If he wants to picket, I'll stand right beside him,"
Pennington said. "If he wants to burn, I'm against him. He
didn't protect [?] anybody; he just destroyed people's
livelihoods."


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