Early on Sunday morning while people were still celebrating the new year, a fire spread through a Florida abortion clinic, entirely gutting the building. Authorities have yet to turn up evidence that the building was purposely set on fire, but the clinic has been the target of violence over the years, and it seems very likely that some nutjob decided to ring in 2012 with a little arson.
The fire at American Family Planning in Pensacola started in dry vegetation around the edge of the building, according to the Associated Press. Thankfully, no one was injured, but most of the building was destroyed. The fire spread from under the building up to the attic, and collapsed the second floor ceiling. Eventually the clinic's alarm company called the fire department, but thanks to the weather conditions, no one was able to spot the fire. "It burned for a prolonged period of time," said a state fire official. "It was a very foggy night and the smoke blended in well with the fog." By the time firefighters arrived the building was engulfed in flames.
Investigators haven't named any suspects or determined what caused the fire, but Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons said "to call it suspicious would be an understatement." The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have announced they'll be joining the investigation today, and officials say they're focused on finding accelerants, which would indicate arson.
The owner of the facility says she hasn't had any specific threats in a long time, but in the past there's been an unusual amount of violence against abortion clinics in the area. The clinic, which was formerly known as The Ladies Center and as Community Healthcare, was bombed in 1984. In 1993, an abortion provider was shot and killed at another Pensaola clinic, and in 1994 at American Family Planning, a doctor and a volunteer who escorted patients were both murdered by a man who frequently protested outside. Hopefully, authorities will find that a fire just happened to start right outside an abortion clinic in the middle of a holiday weekend, but somehow we doubt it. 2011 was already a rough year for reproductive rights, and this isn't a promising start for 2012.