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Planned Parenthood Clinic Destroyed In Suspicious Fire

December 2, 1986 GMT

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) _ A suspicious fire early Monday destroyed a Planned Parenthood clinic that had been picketed almost daily by abortion opponents.

The blaze caused an estimated $750,000 in damage to the two-story building, which was consumed by flames by the time firefighters arrived at the scene, said Louise Safron, executive director of the Planned Parenthood-Reproductive Health Care Center.

The fire was of suspicious origin, but investigators hadn’t pinpointed the cause of the blaze that was reported about 1:18 a.m., said public safety Lt. Ulysses Dixon.

Fire Marshal Marty Myers said it was too early to determine whether it was arson.

Clinics where abortions are done have been frequent targets of vandalism, threats and bombing attacks in recent years.

Bomb attacks against such centers decreased to five in 1986, down from 11 in 1985 and 25 in 1984, according to a Planned Parenthood report.

The Kalamazoo clinic, which was built seven years ago, conducts 1,500 to 1,60 abortions a year, Safron said.

″It’s been picketed nearly daily by polite, reasonable picketers,″ she said.

Howard and Rebecca Peak, who formed the Kalamazoo Pro-Life Action League and have been leading the almost daily pickets at the clinic, said they didn’t condone or condemn violent actions against abortion clinics.

″It puts them out of the abortion business. I have no remorse as long as no one was hurt,″ Peak said.

″We’re not surprised and we’re not sad. Our opinion is that people who live by violence bring violence on themselves,″ said Ms. Peak. ″We never said that people should (attack clinics), but we don’t feel the least bit bad when somebody does it. We consider them a hero.″

Another local anti-abortion advocate denounced the fire.

″I disagree with (Planned Parenthood), and I know other people who do, but not to the point where this kind of response would be condoned, much less carried out,″ said Rev. Robert Nienhuis, a spokesman for the Michigan Association for Sexual Health.

The clinic will re-open in temporary quarters sometime this week, Safron said.

Eventually, the clinic will be rebuilt and will be stronger than ever, she said. ″There is nothing that anyone will be able to do to stop the delivery of services to this community,″ she said.

The facility also was the target of an unsuccessful fire-bombing when it was under construction said there have been no similar attempts since then, she said.