FBI officials will investigate the 8 separate acid attacks waged on Central and South Florida abortion clinics this past week. Three of the attacks occurred last weekend at Central Florida clinics, and five other Miami-area clinics were targeted yesterday.
“We consider this a hate crime,” said Anne Figueiras, a spokesperson for the FBI. If investigators can prove that the some or most of the eight attacks were committed by an organized group, the perpetrators may be charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), a 1994 law that made it a federal crime to blockade or commit violence against women’s health care clinics and workers.
In each of the attacks, the perpetrators poured butyric acid into the clinics. Anti-abortion proponents used butyric acid in attacks of Melbourne and Port St. Lucie, FL clinics in 1992. Butyric acid is a foul-smelling substance that creates fumes and can cause damage to the respiratory systems of those around it.
In at least two of yesterday’s five attacks, the acid was poured inside the clinics through their mail slots. In this past weekend’s three separate attacks, the acid was poured or sprayed through holes drilled in window frames.
A man of “medium build” was seen throwing a package into the front door of one clinic. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Abortion opponents had recently held protests at the affected clinics. Detectives believe that anger over Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles’ veto of a proposed anti-abortion license plate may have spurred the attacks.