WASHINGTON -- A New Year's Day explosion at an abortion clinic in the nation's capital has sparked the Planned Parenthood Federation to find a way to fight back against what they call a 'reign of terror,' federation officials said.
The Hillcrest Women's Surgi-Center in Washington was empty when a blast ripped through the clinic, collapsing the ceiling and sending debris flying into the air. No injuries were reported in the 12:10 a.m. explosion.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said today the bomb was a small explosive placed on an east windowsill of the clinic. Authorities said they do not know what kind of explosive the bomb contained.
It was the third abortion facility bombed in the Washington area in two months and it is the eighth such blast in two years. No one has claimed responsiblity for the blast, police said.
The Washington Times reported today that a man identifying himself as a member of the Army of God, a militant anti-abortion group, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Army of God has claimed responsibility for at least one other blast that damaged an abortion clinic in Prince George's County, Md., in February.
Officials rushed to condemn the blast. Washington Mayor Marion Barry called the terrorists 'deranged' and called on the 'Jerry Falwells of the world to condemn such activities.'
Barry and Falwell clashed face-to-face today on the CBS 'Morning News,' with Falwell saying Barry's comments were 'below his office,' and Barry contending that anti-abortion leaders should condemn such bombings 'in the strongest statements possible.'
But Falwell said he understands how the bombings could occur. 'I can understand how deranged people can do those things when I think about what goes on in the back rooms of those clinics.'
Barry compared the bombing to the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and the Beirut terrorists and called on President Reagan, the FBI and Congress to condemn the bombings.
Faye Wattleton, president of the national Planned Parenthood federation, called on President Reagan to put law-enforcement agencies behind 'seeking out, arresting and curtailing' participants in abortion clinic bombings. There have been at least two dozen such attacks across the country in 1984.
'This senseless attack of a Hillcrest abortion clinic and counseling service is further evidence of terrorist activity by a small group determined to force its will upon the American people,' she said.
Roseanne Wiseman, executive director of the Washington-area Planned Parenthood federation, said pro-abortion groups will meet this week to build a strategy to prevent and fight against the terrorist activity.
Police said there was no immediate link of yesterday's blast to the three Christmas Day bombings in Pensacola, Fla., nor to the seven other bombings in the Washington area.
In Pensacola, Fla. federal agents have arrested a second suspect on charges of bombing four area abortion clinics -- three of them just 15 minutes apart early Christmas Day.
James Thomas Simmons, 21, Cantonment, Fla., was arrested and charged Tuesday with violating federal gun control and explosives laws and faces a hearing today before a U.S. Magistrate.
Simmons was charged with the Christmas Day bombings and a June bombing at an abortion clinic just two days after federal agents arrested 21-year-old construction worker Matthew Goldsby, also of Cantonment, on the same charges.
No one was injured in the Christmas Day blasts, but they caused more than $400,000 in damages. One of the clinics bombed Christmas Day - The Ladies Center -- had also been bombed last June.
After Barry called on Falwell to condemn the bombings, Falwell sent Barry a telegram criticizing his 'sarcastic, uninformed' comments.
'Such violent and inhumane acts not only hurt those who are destroying the unborn, but do great damage to the anti-abortion cause,' Falwell said. 'I repeat -- we have condemned these actions for years. You either are unaware of this fact, or worse.'
The first of the series of explosions tore through a clinic in Falls Church, Va. in the summer of 1982. In February, a Prince George's County, Md. clinic was attacked.
A Planned Parenthood office and an abortion clinic were bombed in November 1984 within minutes of each other in Montgomery County, Md., and on Christmas Eve, a bomb exploded in a building housing a clinic in Silver Hill, Md. A clinic also was bombed in Annapolis and National Abortion Federation Headquarters in Washington was bombed on Independence Day.