by Steven Ertelt
July 6, 2005
West Palm Beach, FL (LifeNews.com) — Local officials say that a late-night Independence Day fire at a southern Florida abortion facility was "suspicious" and likely an arson. Phil Kaplan, spokesman for the West Palm Beach Fire Department, said the blaze at the Presidential Women’s Center abortion business began around 11 p.m.
Kaplan told the Palm Beach Post newspaper that it was too early to rule on the cause of the fire and whether it was an arson, but he said authorities found a broken window and fire accelerant at the scene, which prompted them to label it "suspicious."
As a result, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are working with local officials to investigate. Tow months ago, officials investigated a failed arson attempt at the same facility.
The BATF and Florida fire marshal’s office are offering $7,500 for information leading to the conviction of the person who started the fire.
Kaplan said no one was in the building at the time and he said the building sustained only moderate smoke, fire and water damage.
Pro-life groups condemned the fire, but one abortion advocate has already accused pro-life advocates of responsibility for setting the blaze.
”It is tragic that it happened,” Frances Fitzgerald, president of the Palm Beach County Right to Life League told the newspaper. "You don’t take care of violence with more violence.”
Patricia Baird-Windle, a former owner of an area abortion business, told Newsday she thought the fire was the work of someone affiliated with a pro-life group rather than a vigilante individual, as is typically the case.
Fitzgerald said she hopes the culprit will be brought to justice and she doubted anyone from her group was involved.
A lawyer for the abortion business told the Post that he suspects it was an arson and promised that the business will reopen soon to continue performing abortions.
”It was an act of terrorism, an act of arson that did a great deal of damage,” Lou Silber said. "This is not going to close us down. We are going to open up as soon as possible and provide women medical services.”
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Kathleen Mahoney said the 25 year-old abortion facility catered to women all over the south Florida area and also performed abortions on women from other states and other countries.
In July 2004, a fire was started at the WomanCare Center abortion facility in Lake Worth, Florida. No one was injured in that blaze, though the building was destroyed.
Owner Tammy Sobieski eventually relocated that center to the West Palm Beach area, but she was recently evicted from her building after apparently misrepresenting the business to its landlords. According to a local pro-life advocate, she told owners of the building it rented that it would not be performing abortions.
On June 16, the WomanCare abortion business was evicted from its 750 S. Military Trail offices, it’s third location in the past few years.
Susan Pine, president of local pro-life organization FACE Life, said "my understanding [is] that WomanCare misrepresented themselves to the property owner in order to secure the location."
"Although WomanCare is an abortion center, they made no statements to the fact that they perform abortions," Pine added.
According to Pine, Sobieski also has an abortion facility she operates in Cocoa, Florida and she has closed down that business as well. Pine says Sobieski was required to notify the property owner by June 19 of her intent to renew her lease and she didn’t do so.
Sobieski estimates up to 5,000 women visit the abortion facility each year.