Anti-Abortion Group Hits Buffalo, but with New Tactics

Article excerpt

THE next "Wichita" is under way.

After making a name for itself last summer with its six-week siege of abortion clinics in that Kansas city, Operation Rescue (OR) has set upon Buffalo, New York, to save fetal lives.

But this "rescue," which began Monday, will be different, say OR activists and abortion-rights defenders.

OR media coordinator Jerry Reiter, contacted in Buffalo, acknowledges that OR has an image problem. So this time, he says, OR is highlighting a three-pronged approach that includes:

* The standard "rescue" activity of blocking entrance to clinics. Mr. Reiter maintains this will be achieved only through nonviolent civil disobedience.

* "Operation First Amendment," in which protesters exercise their right of free speech by singing, praying, and telling people about abortion without blocking clinics. Such people have always participated along the edges of OR rescues, but the media have paid little attention to them, says Mr. Reiter - thus, the title.

* OR's National Adoption Project. As part of a national effort, OR is recruiting Buffalo families to adopt special-needs children and other hard-to-place candidates. The hope is that the program will encourage women pregnant with special-needs babies not to abort.

OR also says the Buffalo rescue is not likely to be as long as Wichita, nor will it involve as many people. "This will be more of a regional effort," says Reiter.

The fact is, say Buffalo abortion-rights activists, that months ago, OR founder Randall Terry put out the call for rescuers to descend on Buffalo, but that OR has since had to scale back its expectations.

Valerie Colangelo, an organizer of Buffalo United For Choice, which was formed in January in response to OR's targeting of Buffalo, says the group studied the Wichita experience and learned a lesson: be prepared and act immediately.

"We felt the primary problem in Wichita was that the response was not fast enough," says Ms. Colangelo. As soon as the group formed, it set up an office and began planning tactics and raising money.

Its sole aim, she says, is to keep abortion clinics open. …