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Arson Suspected In Third Ohio Clinic Fire

December 31, 1985

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ An abortion clinic was damaged Tuesday by a fire that federal investigators said they believed was arson, which would make it the third Ohio clinic hit by arsonists this week.

″The only statement we’re making is that it appears to be arson,″ said Robert Stellingworth, resident agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Two other Toledo abortion clinics reported Tuesday that they had received bomb threats the day before, and city police put them under surveillance.

Two Cincinnati abortion clinics suffered $75,000 damage each Monday. Investigators there said it appeared that gasoline-fueled firebombs were thrown into the Margaret Sanger and Women’s Health Care centers.

Jim Moriarty, a leader of the area’s most visible pro-life group, Christians United Against Abortion, said Tuesday that members of the group would not be involved in setting fires or any such activities, which he believes only increase public sympathy for abortionists.

″But when you think about it, a little fire damage is really kind of minor when you think of the damage that goes on inside the abortion clinic every day,″ Moriarty said.

A fire apparently was set early Tuesday in the crawl space beneath the Toledo Medical Services Inc. clinic, which also was firebombed in August, said Fire Chief Kenneth Harberson. No one was at the clinic at the time of the fire, which burned up into interior walls and caused an estimated $20,000 damage.

ATF agent Leo Foltz in Cincinnati said the agency’s list of possible suspects included anti-abortion activists, but said he could not assume that such activists set the fires.

″They are very visible and easy to point the finger at. But if anyone had an inkling to do something like this, this would have been a convenient time to do it. So we aren’t looking just at protesters,″ Foltz said.

Dr. Carl L. Armstrong, owner of Toledo Medical Services, reopened the clinic Tuesday after blocking off the damaged areas.

Rebecca Weitzman, spokeswoman for the clinic, said security would be increased but declined to detail what measures would be taken.

″Each time something happens to us - trespassing or firebombings or whatever - or to other abortion clinics in the country, you tighten security,″ she said.

Ms. Weitzman said the clinic received no threats warning of the fire.

Barbara Radford, exeuctive director of the National Abortion Federation, said the Ohio fires bring to 12 the number of arson and bombing cases reported by clinics in 1985.

Sixty-six abortion clinics reported receiving bomb threats and 15 death threats, 41 reported vandalism and 36 reported trespassing by anti-abortion activists. Four package bombs were sent to clinics in Portland, Ore., and assaults were reported at seven clinics during the year, Ms. Radford said.

The federation is a non-profit organization, based in Washington, which represents 316 abortion providers in the United States and Canada. Its data is provided by the clinics and by the ATF, she said.

In Ohio, seven arson fires, bombings or attempts have been reported since the federation began collecting data in 1977. Those figures do not include the August firebomb in Toledo or the fires this week.

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