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Women’s Groups Ask Governor To Bend Rules To Hire Doctor for Abortions

April 24, 1993

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) _ Abortion rights advocates asked Gov. Lawton Chiles to suspend state rules and temporarily allow doctors not licensed in Florida to work at two Pensacola abortion clinics whose only physician was shot to death.

A doctor temporarily working at one of the clinics will leave at the end of this month. The other facility uses doctors who come on a week-to-week basis.

The Feminist Majority Foundation, which promotes women’s rights, and abortion-rights activists asked Chiles to order a six-month grace period because state licensing sometimes takes that long.

Foundation coordinator Katherine Spillar said they want an executive order like the one Chiles issued after Hurricane Andrew last year.

″Doctors were able to come in from all over the country ... to provide medical services in Florida,″ said Ms. Spillar from her office in Arlington, Va. ″We think this is also a crisis in the Panhandle.″

Chiles’ press secretary, Julie Anbender, said Friday the governor’s office was reviewing its options, which it was discussing with the foundation and hoped to have a response soon.

Dr. David Gunn, 47, was shot to death March 10 during an anti-abortion protest outside Pensacola Women’s Medical Services. He was the only doctor working there and at the Ladies Center, the only two abortion clinics in a two-county area. The nearest abortion clinics are about one hour’s drive away.

Vicky Conroy, an anti-abortion activist in Pensacola, says the abortion rights advocates’ claims of a crisis are false because patients can obtain abortions at those clinics.

Pensacola Women’s found a state-licensed doctor who will stay to the end of this month, said clinic administrator Brianne Dorsey. The only applicants for a permanent job are licensed in Alabama and Minnesota, she said.

A Ladies Center official declined to comment, but Spillar said that clinic has a doctor on a week-to-week basis.

Fear of anti-abortion violence since Gunn’s slaying has hindered the search for doctors, Dorsey said in a sworn statement to Chiles.

Michael F. Griffin, 31, is set for trial June 21 on first-degree murder charges in Gunn’s slaying. If convicted, he could get the death penalty.

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