by Steven Ertelt
August 11, 2005
West Palm Beach, FL (LifeNews.com) — A Florida abortion facility is back in business after closing following an early July fire that damaged it. The Presidential Women’s Center reopened Wednesday after five weeks of cleaning and reconstruction.
"There was never a doubt that we were not going to go forward and rebuild the center," Mona Reis, the center’s director, told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper. "Literally hours after we were able to come into the office, we had contractors and hired a cleanup company."
Reis said she hoped to reopen the abortion facility as soon as possible and, while it was closed, she and staff referred women considering abortions to other area abortion centers.
She told the newspaper she looked into setting up shop in a temporary office, but she indicated logistics were too difficult to coordinate.
"It’s probably been one of the most devastating experiences I have had as a challenge before me," Reis said of dealing with the aftermath of the blaze.
Jamie Higgins, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told the Sun-Sentinel that investigators still don’t know who started the fire on the night of July 3.
Last month, Phil Kaplan, spokesman for the West Palm Beach Fire Department, said the blaze was likely an arson started with lighter fluid or some other accelerant. 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.
Reis said women who visited the abortion center Wednesday received pregnancy tests and some went home with the morning after pill, a birth control drug which sometimes causes an abortion.