Advertisement
  1. News

Siege highlights security used in abortion clinics

Published Nov. 29, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — As heavily armed police entered the Planned Parenthood clinic here to hunt down the gunman and rescue those trapped inside, they had an advantage that seemed like something out of the movies. Officers in the command center outside the clinic were able to tap into security cameras throughout the complex, watch the siege unfold and give precise instructions to officers inside.

"We could see where the suspect was," Mayor John Suthers said in an interview. Officers also knew where different groups of staff members and patients had taken cover, he said, and were able to judge when it was safe to rescue them.

The advanced camera system was just one sign of the increasingly elaborate security measures that abortion clinics around the country have adopted.

According to discussions overheard on police scanners on Friday, when the attack occurred, at least one woman retreated to a protected "safe room." The clinic also had a supply of bulletproof vests.

"Abortion clinics need to take extraordinary security measures that aren't necessary for other health care facilities," said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, the professional society for clinics, doctors and hospitals that perform abortions.

"That can include bulletproof glass and safe rooms as well as cameras and lighting and security protocols," she said. In Colorado Springs, she added, "the staff were well-trained and saved a lot of life."

The facility had a security guard on duty Friday morning but he left after the day's patients had arrived and his shift ended, said Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Cowart also said the gunman had never gotten past the waiting room. After the initial shots were fired, an employee hustled patients and staff members through a security door to the back of the clinic, she said.

Planned Parenthood officials declined to discuss their security measures in any detail, for fear of giving tips to would-be attackers. But they said the measures were extensive.

Since 1977, when more extreme elements in the antiabortion movement began attacking clinics and personnel, eight doctors or staff members have been killed, according to data collected by the National Abortion Federation. There have been an additional 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arson attacks and many thousands of violent threats or other illegal acts against abortion clinics.

Security measures at many clinics have been strengthened in the past five months, since antiabortion activists released covertly taped videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the illegal sale of fetal parts. The claims have been disproved, but have led to vitriolic verbal attacks and what those working in abortion clinics, not only those run by Planned Parenthood, consider to be an especially ominous atmosphere.

The perceived level of threat differs according to location, but in some cases, clinic officials said, doctors have been provided with 24-hour armed guards.

The national federation called for a special meeting in August of a standing Justice Department task force on violence against abortion clinics, Saporta said. For years, clinics have turned over information about credible threats to the task force, which includes the FBI and other law enforcement groups.

Even as they seek ways to forestall or mitigate attacks, clinics and their staff members try to keep security measures as unobtrusive as possible, hoping to preserve a warm and safe atmosphere for patients who are often already facing stress.

"We're still health care providers and we want our patients to feel safe and welcome, said Dr. Nancy Stanwood, an OB-GYN at the Yale University medical center who also works in an abortion clinic.

"It's a balancing act," she said.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Firemen and ambulance attendants remove a body from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where an explosion ripped the structure during services Sept.15,1963 . Associated Press
    Fifty-six years ago, a bomb blew apart the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four girls and injuring dozens more.
  2. Danielle Harris of Pinellas Park leans against a large photo of Terri Schiavo and her mother, Mary Schindler, during a vigil outside the Woodside Hospice Villas in 2003. Associated Press
    “Terri Schiavo is now a martyr,” one then-state representative said upon learning of her death.
  3. 5 hours ago• Pasco
    The Port Richey Citizen's Advisory Committee recently installed a mini library at the Mallett Fishing Pier. The box has a painting that depicts the stilt houses off the Port Richey coast, Johnny Cash (who was known to have loved the city and visited often), as well as dolphins playing. This is the second mini library the committee has erected, with the first installed at City Hall, next to the dog park. Pictured, from left: Blaine Lee, builder of the mini library; City Council member Jennie Sorrell (committee member), Laurie (committee member) and Jeff Simpson, Judi Cain (artist), Interim City Council member Angel Nally (committee member) and Tom Kinsella (committee member). Claudia Smith
    News and notes about your neighbors
  4. 5 hours ago• Hernando
    Members of the Live Oak Conservatory Pre-K 1 Combo Class rest after their first session of tap, jazz and ballet. The class includes children from 18 months to 5 years old. The conservatory kicked off its second year in August, offering performing arts classes for children and adults. The Live Oak Theatre Company is a nonprofit repertory company, located at the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for the Arts in Brooksville. Visit liveoaktheatre.org. Jane Russell Geddings
    News and notes about your neighbors
  5. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates.
    Charges in the accident are pending.
  6. Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Lagoa, left, and Robert Luck, right, were appointed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta by President Trump. Florida Supreme Court
    Ok losers, who needs access to our state politicians, anyway?
  7. The Dade City Monarch Butterfly Festival will be Oct. 12 in Hibiscus Park. AP
    News and notes from Pasco County
  8. Bubba's 33 recently broke ground on its first restaurant in Florida, which will open in Wesley Chapel in December. Pictured, left to right: Experience Florida's Sports Coast (Tourism) Director Adam Thomas, Bubba's 33 marketing director Crista Demers-Dean, Bubba's 33 managing partner Jeff Dean, Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore and North Tampa Bay Chamber CEO Hope Allen. Andy Taylor
    News and notes on local businesses
  9. Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, posted this photo and open letter to Judge Thomas Palermo to her Instagram account on September 10, the day after she lost custody of her 4-year-old son Noah McAdams. The boy's parents wanted to treat his leukemia with natural health care remedies instead of chemotherapy. [Instagram] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Instagram
    The couple refused chemotherapy for their son, instead seeking alternative treatments including dietary plans, alkaline water and THC and CBD oil treatments
  10. Mos Antenor, 42, drives a bulldozer while clearing the road after Hurricane Dorian Mclean's Town, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Friday Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) RAMON ESPINOSA  |  AP
    Threatening to exacerbate islands’ problems, Humberto’s rains were falling on Abaco island.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement