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Abortion Doctor in Serious Condition After Shooting With PM-Abortion Shooting-Glance

November 9, 1994 GMT

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ A doctor who performs abortions was in serious condition today, a day after a sniper toting an AK-47 shot him as he ate breakfast in his kitchen.

The first bullet crashed through a sliding glass door and through the back of Dr. Garson Romalis’s chair as he was leaning forward, police spokeswoman Constable Anne Drennan said.

″The second shot appears to have struck the doctor in the leg as he was being spun around in the chair,″ she said. The doctor’s wife and daughter were home at the time but were not harmed.

Police still had no suspect in Tuesday’s shooting, Drennan said today. They had not ruled out motives other than Romalis’ abortion work.

In Washington, D.C., Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern said the FBI was helping in the investigation.

Abortion is legal throughout Canada and available at most government-funded hospitals and clinics.

The shooting stunned health care workers in the province, where firearms are tightly controlled and shootings are rare.

″I’m shocked, absolutely shocked that somebody would be shot,″ said Dr. Mark Schonfeld, president of the British Columbia Medical Association. ″It’s just so foreign to our way of life and our thinking.″

The shooting came less than a week after a Florida jury recommended the death penalty for Paul Hill, a militant anti-abortionist who shot and killed a doctor and his escort outside an abortion clinic on July 29.

Romalis works at the Women’s Health Centre and the Elizabeth Bagshaw Clinic in Vancouver. Police tightened up security at both.

His house sits in a well-to-do, tree-lined neighborhood. Residents told police they have seen anti-abortion protestors picketing there.

One of three bullets hit Romalis, a 57-year-old gynecologist and obstetrician, in the upper left leg. He was in serious condition, Vancouver Hospital spokeswoman Linda Bartz said.

The sniper hid behind garbage cans in an alley about 30 feet from the doctor’s house.

Officers found about 20 rounds of AK-47 ammunition in a garbage can nearby. They also found a roll of tape, which the shooter apparently used to secure the lid of another garbage can to keep it from making noise while it was used as an arm rest, Drennan said.

The shooting followed what police said were two strange phone calls Mrs. Romalis received at home Monday. The time of the calls - around 7:20 a.m. - was the same as that of Tuesday’s attack.

In the calls, Drennan said, a man who sounded agitated asked for Romalis and was given his pager number. In the second call, about 15 minutes later, the man asked if Romalis worked out of his house, and gave the street address. Mrs. Romalis did not confirm the address, but told the caller her husband worked at his clinic and again gave the pager number.

Police believe the caller was trying to determine whether Romalis would be home at that hour, Drennan said.

The shooting unnerved members of Vancouver’s abortion rights movement.

Kim Zander, spokeswoman for Everywoman’s Health Center, said clinic workers had been warning police something like this would happen.

″And then you wake up one morning and it’s happened,″ she said. ″It’s a very, very scary situation to live under.″

Anti-abortionist Gordon Watson, recently sentenced to 21 days in jail for contempt of court for actions against the clinic, said he supported the shooting.

″The guy kills babies for money,″ said Watson, who is free on bail pending an appeal. ″He sows violence and now violence has come back and visited his own doorstep.″

But other anti-abortion leaders said they deplored the attack and accused abortion rights groups of exploiting it.

″It would seem to me that these violent acts that happen are fodder for the mill of the abortionists,″ said Betty Green, head of Vancouver Right to Life. ″They are certainly used to discredit the anti-abortion movement.″