Several anti-abortion organizations Thursday sharply attacked the mailing of four potentially lethal parcel bombs to abortion-related facilities in the Portland, Ore., area, in which investigators say there is no suspect thus far.
"I know people who have blown up (abortion) clinics, but I have never heard of anybody who wanted to hurt people," said Joseph Scheidler, executive director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, who says he advocates and teaches nonviolent action at clinics. Scheidler was in Portland from Oct. 27 to 29, he said, and had picketed one of the clinics to which a bomb was mailed.
"I would just have to exclude (from responsibility) the pro-life movement," he said. "A bomb directed at a person--I would disapprove of that, and I just don't think it's a pro-life person who's responsible."
"I cannot find words strong enough to condemn such an act," said Dr. Jack Willke, president of the National Right-to-Life Committee in Washington, D.C. "Our policy has consistently been against violence of any nature. The very reason for our existence as a national movement is to stop violence."
"I hate to think of anyone on either side bombing someone," said Vicky Maurseth, president of Right-to-Life/Oregon in Portland, which has sought to dissuade women from entering clinics for abortions. "I certainly hope they catch the person responsible."
The reaction followed comments Wednesday by abortion organizations blaming anti-abortion groups for the escalation in violence--from occasional bombings and acts of arson at abortion facilities to a multiple attempt to kill individuals in clinics.
"There hasn't been a change of tactics," Maurseth said. "Let's cease making accusations until (police) have identified who is responsible."
The four bombs were mailed to two clinics, one physician and a Planned Parenthood office. One bomb was detected on delivery Monday morning to the Portland Feminist Women's Health Center, and the other three were then intercepted by postal authorities. All four were safely deactivated. They were described by Portland police spokesman Sgt. Jay Decker as "anti-personnel devices to hurt, maim or kill the person opening the package."
Each of the targeted offices except Planned Parenthood had been the subject of frequent picketing by abortion opponents and, on Thursday, the four targets and other groups called on Right-to-Life of Oregon and another group for a moratorium on picketing.
"It's our view the picketers created a climate for this to take place," said Mary Rohlffs, director of Oregon NARAL, the state chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League. She said that in late October a picket at the feminist health center was dressed in combat fatigues and bore a toy machine gun and a sign reading, "Open season on abortionists."