Abortion clinics on guard

August 03, 1994|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer TaNoah V. Sterling contributed to this article.

In an article in yesterday's editions of The Sun, the location of the Baltimore Women's Medical Center was incorrect. It is located on Belair Road in Baltimore County. Also, the story incorrectly characterized the Planned Parenthood of Maryland's women's health centers in Towson and Owings Mills. Those two centers do not perform abortions.

The Sun regrets the errors.

As federal marshals are being assigned to protect abortion clinics across the nation, officials at some Maryland clinics are concerned about possible violence -- but say they already have security measures to protect patients and employees. None of the Baltimore-area clinics contacted yesterday reported having

federal marshals assigned to provide protection.

The Justice Department, which said it intended to assign federal marshals primarily to clinics that previously have been the sites of violent protests, refused to say whether any Maryland clinics would be protected by marshals.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Dr. John Bayard Britton, a Florida physician who performed abortions, and former Annapolis resident James H. Barrett, who served as the doctor's escort, were each shot in the head and killed Friday as they entered a Pensacola, Fla., clinic. Mr. Barrett's 68-year-old wife, June, was wounded.

Police have charged Paul Hill -- a well-known, outspoken opponent of abortion -- with the slayings.

Although local clinic representatives were reluctant to discuss in detail what new measures may be taken in the wake of last week's shootings, they said the clinics are maintaining their normal heightened security.

"We feel as secure as we have always felt, but we are always on guard," said Cheryl Wolf, public relations director for Hillcrest Clinic in Catonsville. "We are not taking any type of militant action because we like to keep a low profile.

"We are always leery of things happening."

Ms. Wolf said Hillcrest contacted the Baltimore County police immediately after Friday's slayings and police agreed to conduct additional patrols near the clinic.

Baltimore County police regularly pay extra attention to Hillcrest and to the Baltimore Women's Medical Center in Bel Air, according to police spokesman E. Jay Miller.

"There is an ongoing dialogue between the commanders and these groups," he said, comparing additional patrols of the clinics to those the police conduct of homes where residents are away on vacation.

A representative of the Bel Air clinic declined to be interviewed.

Planned Parenthood of Maryland, which operates abortion clinics downtown Baltimore, Towson, Owings Mills and Annapolis, also refused to discuss specific security measures that have been taken, except to list the security requests made by the national organization to the Justice Department in the wake of the shootings.

Among the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's requests were the assignment of federal marshals to protect abortion clinics nationwide and the creation of a multi-jurisdictional task force to investigate violence against clinics, said spokeswoman Maris St. Cyr.

Mary Lou Pavlish, director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Annapolis, said her work site was quiet and she hoped it would stay that way. "For several months we haven't had any protesters," she said.

She added that security measures have increased since the Florida shooting and that "local police have been very supportive" of the clinic.

A spokesman for Gynecare Center, the other abortion service provider in Anne Arundel refused to comment.

Although anti-abortion activists regularly organize small protests at area clinics and at the homes of doctors who perform abortions, there have been few serious incidents. The most common forms of protest are picketing and "sidewalk counselors" who try to persuade women entering clinics not to have an abortion, said Ms. Wolf of Hillcrest.

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