AUSTIN – A package left at a clinic that performs abortions contained an explosive device that investigators said Thursday could have been deadly.
The incident came just days after a national abortion group alerted providers around the country to an increased risk of violence.
The device, found in a duffle bag Wednesday, "was configured in such a way to cause serious bodily injury or death," said David Carter, assistant chief of the Austin Police Department.
The bomb, which was found in the parking lot of the Austin Women's Health Center, comes on the heels of last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling which banned a controversial type of abortion and was viewed as an anti-abortion victory.
"We know that when abortion is in the news, we also see clinics targeted for increased violence and disruption," said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation. The group put out a memo to abortion providers around the country, asking them to be on alert.
Officials would not describe the device or confirm that the clinic was targeted because it is an abortion provider.
In the last 30 years, abortion clinics have been bombed 41 times according to law enforcement statistics compiled by the National Abortion Federation. Many of the crimes directed at abortion providers, including 93 attempted bombings and arson, were committed during times that abortion issues were prominent in the news, Saporta said.
"Last week we put out an update to our members ... we reminded them that when abortion is featured prominently in the news we often see an increase in violence aimed at clinics and encouraged them to take increased security precautions," Saporta said.
The last reported abortion-related incident in Texas was a 2002 arson in Dallas.
Wednesday's incident is being investigated by the regional Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is led by the FBI and includes Austin police.
After an employee found the suspicious package in the parking lot, a bomb squad detonated the device. The immediate vicinity, including nearby Interstate 35, was evacuated briefly.
"We used a small explosive charge to render the device safe," Carter said. "When they did that a substance came out of the device that appeared to be consistent with an explosive."
Tests later confirmed that the package was explosive. Authorities have asked area abortion providers to be particularly vigilant in the coming days, Carter said.