The police are unwilling at this point to say that the two recent fires in Georgia clinics that provide abortions — or the burglaries of even more clinics earlier this year — are either related to each other or part of a “payback” movement emboldened by the contentious debate and passage of a 20 week abortion ban in the state during the 2012 legislative session.
But they are investigating. And they are bringing in help.
According to the Associated Press, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is now a part of the investigation into fires at two different gynecology clinics within a matter of a few days.
Although investigators so far will not discuss if any of the incidents were related to each other, or whether the motive, as some practitioners believe, is to intimidate doctors who perform abortions, one thing has become clear. If this is a pattern, it’s one that is rapidly escalating.
Within a matter of months Georgia has gone from empty clinics that have been burglarized and equipment stolen, to an empty clinic outside of office hours being set on fire, to what was now likely a brazen attack during the day, during actual office hours, that could have easily harmed both those who worked at the center, the patients inside, and innocent bystanders.
Nurse Angela Buckner told the Atlanta Journal Constitution,
“One of our employees started smelling the smoke, they heard a bunch of racket back and forth and then they smelled it…It was just a few minutes [that the men were upstairs] — long enough to get a fire going and then go.”
Buckner said the office sometimes puts patients under anesthesia, but “just by the grace of God,” there were no sedated patients in the office on Wednesday.
The police may still say they are unsure if the crimes are related to the abortion bills, but politicians are less reluctant, including those who voted in favor of the ban.
Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, who considers herself pro-life, is a veteran nurse who opposed parts of the bill but eventually voted for an amended version. She believes the doctors were victims of retaliation committed by citizens who were acting like vigilantes.
“I think the police are not political so they probably don’t see the connections,” Cooper said. “I hope they see it now.”
The FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and FBI Atlanta Civil Rights Squad are already releasing a picture of someone who was at the scene, as well as a description of the man and his vehicle, and are asking those with information to step forward.