Originally created 01/17/97

Anti-abortion bill announced hours after blast



ATLANTA - The same day bombs went off at a building housing a north Atlanta abortion clinic, a group of conservative state lawmakers announced plans to file legislation outlawing "partial-birth" abortions.

Sponsors of the bill, which is expected to be filed today , said they were signing up supporters moments after two bombs went off at Atlanta Northside Family Planning Services, injuring six people.

"I don't think there is a soul who would agree with the bombing. We would hope the person or persons involved with this be caught, be prosecuted under the law," said Sen. Don Balfour, R-Lilburn, the Senate sponsor of the partial birth legislation.

The House sponsor, Rep. Ron Crews, R-Tucker, quickly added, "We feel it's important to press ahead.

"This procedure is extreme. This procedure is an inflammatory procedure. This procedure is a gruesome procedure. I don't know how anybody can support it."

While Mr. Balfour and Mr. Crews pledged to end late term, or "partial-birth" abortions, another lawmaker, state Rep. Doug Teper, D-Atlanta, called on state leaders to stiffen penalties against bombers of health facilities.

Politicians and activists on both sides of the volatile issue decried the bombing.

"Anybody who does that has got to be sick in the mind," said House Speaker Tom Murphy, D-Bremen, who has stalled anti-abortion legislation in the House for years.

"This was a blatant disregard for life and violates every principle of the sanctity of human life," said Jerry Keen, state chairman of the Georgia Christian Coalition. "The Christian Coalition has always taken a strong position against the use of violence and for rational discussion in the abortion debate.

"The Christian Coalition of Georgia hopes that everything possible will be done to bring those responsible for this brutal act of terrorism to justice."

Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis was at the scene when the second bomb went off, and was knocked to the ground but got up unharmed.

"The people who placed the explosive devices in this office building are nothing but cowardly scum," said Mr. Skandalakis, a Republican.

Mr. Keen told reporters a few hours after the bombing he hoped pro-choice activists wouldn't use the violence to tar anti-abortion organizations.

But abortion rights groups said right-wing extremists have made bomb threats a part of daily life.

"I am absolutely horrified and I am scared to death," said Toni Tirado, a pro-choice lobbyist and staffer at Atlanta's Feminist Women's Health Center.

"We are frightened, but we are not going to stop what we're doing," added Vicki McLennan of Georgia's National Organization for Women chapter.

Ms. McLennan called on law enforcement officials to investigate the abortion clinic bombing with the same vigor they showed in going after the Olympic Park bomber last summer.

Mr. Teper and Sen. David Scott, D-Atlanta, blamed groups like the Christian Coalition and conservative preachers for stirring up violence against clinics.

"When you fan those flames, you're going to get some heat, and in many cases, you're going to get the fire," Mr. Scott said. "In this case we got the fire."

Pro-choice lawmakers publicly asked conservative colleagues not to file anti-abortion legislation in the wake of the bombing.

"That is the least they can do in demonstrating they are not a part of this terroristic band that's bombing abortion clinics across this country," said Rep. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta.

However, Mr. Crews noted about one-third of the House has already signed on to co-sponsor the late-term abortion bill.

Congress passed a similar measure last year, only to see it vetoed by President Clinton.

Of the nation's 1.3 million annual abortions, about 1.3 percent are late-term abortions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Georgia Right to Life officials say they don't know how often the procedure is used in Georgia.

But Mr. Balfour said it doesn't matter, because saying the General Assembly needs to make a statement on the issue.