Police looking for woman who tried to burn down lone Wyoming abortion clinic before it could open
Police in Casper, Wyoming, on Tuesday released surveillance footage as a part of an arson investigation after they say a person in May attempted to burn down a building set to become the state's only procedural abortion clinic.
No injuries were reported in the fire that damaged the inside of the facility. The new footage shows a masked person carrying what appears to be a gas can in the building.
Police described the person in the video as a 5 foot, 7 inch tall white woman of medium build. The footage shows the person wearing a dark hoodie and a surgical mask in the early hours of May 25.
Police previously considered the potential that the fire was intentionally set, but Tuesday's news disclosed a suspect in an active arson investigation.
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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Denver Field Division joined the Casper police's investigation into the incident and is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for any valuable information that leads to the suspect’s arrest.
Photos from the scene show the future Wellspring Health Access clinic surrounded by police tape. A window was broken and smoke damage can be seen outside.
Wyoming currently only has one medication abortion provider — located in the city of Jackson, near the Idaho border, according to a website for Wellspring Health Access. The Casper clinic was set to open in mid-June, but organizers on Wednesday released a statement announcing that the opening has been delayed by about six months.
“Despite these setbacks, we are undeterred in our mission to give the people of Casper access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion care,” clinic founder Julie Burkhart said in the statement.
The arson investigation comes as abortion rights have become a national flashpoint following a leaked Supreme Court's draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Several states have passed "trigger laws" that would restrict abortions immediately following the court's ruling, should it overturn the historic precedent. Wyoming became one of such states in March, when Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill that would ban most abortions.
Abortion-rights advocates nationwide say they have seen a rise in violent acts against clinics. Statistics collected by the National Abortion Federation show a recent increase in clinic trespassing and obstruction, death threats, and mail and internet harassment.
Contributing: Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.