Officers and clinic staffs get training to heed violent anti-abortion threats; Federal experts show how to recognize explosives

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Women's health-care providers and local law enforcement representatives came to Fort Meade yesterday for bomb-threat and security-awareness training from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"In the past several years there has been an increase in domestic terrorism," said Nicole Carey, vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood of Maryland. "It is crucial for us that people have a heightened awareness of the violence directed at women's health providers."

In the early 1980s, according to ATF spokesman Mike Campbell, an abortion clinic in Prince George's County was bombed. From 1982 to last year, there were five arsons or bombings at Maryland clinics.

In November, Attorney General Janet Reno formed a task force with ATF, U.S. Marshals and the FBI to investigate violence and provide training and security awareness for clinics and local law enforcement.

The task force videotaped yesterday's 2 1/2-hour training program to show to health-care workers across the nation.

Abortion-rights activists lobbied state legislators this week for a stronger law on access to women's health clinics, saying current law is no longer adequate to protect employees from militant abortion opponents.

"Our patients and providers should not have to fear for their lives," Nesli Karakus of Planned Parenthood of Maryland told legislators Thursday.

She said they need protection from "a group of Maryland residents that works daily toward the goal that killing doctors is OK."

A bill by Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, would make it a crime to take any action -- such as following a person entering or leaving a clinic where abortions are performed -- that is intended to alarm or harass. It would extend that protection to places away from the clinic, such as the neighborhood where an employee lives.

Rosenberg said Maryland was the first state to pass a law to prohibit abortion opponents from blocking people trying to enter clinics. But after 10 years, he said, "people are finding a way around the existing law."

The highlight of the Fort Meade training for most of the 45 participants was the detonation of seven explosive devices, including small letter bombs and an old car unclaimed from the Baltimore City impound lot.

"They walked us through a visual identification of suspicious packages," said Linda Anders, director of clinical operations for Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

Law enforcement personnel from Baltimore and from Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Baltimore counties attended the training, as did women's health-care providers from all over the state.

Pub Date: 3/06/99

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