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Anti-Abortion Protest Downtown Curtailed by Cold

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Supporters of abortion rights shouted "go home" to fewer than 20 anti-abortion extremists from out-of-town who were rallying in support of James Kopp. Both sides chanted back and forth Wednesday afternoon outside the Erie County Holding Center where Kopp is being held for the 1998 shooting death of Dr. Barnett Slepian.

The extreme cold was responsible for the protest breaking up before a planned march to Niagara Square. Just four of the Kopp supporters traveled to Buffalo GYN Womenservices, where Slepian once practiced. They were kept across the street, while police guarded the clinic entrance.

Click the "listen" icon above to hear Eileen Buckley's report on the protest.

Wednesday's protest was also held to mark the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Planned Parenthood of Buffalo and Erie County says over the last 30 years women have earned individual freedom -- better access to birth control, child bearing choices and new technologies.

But they fear progress could be stopped if the Supreme Court decided to overturn the 1973 abortion ruling. Dana Neitlich, CEO of the local Planned Parenthood, says the Bush Administration is "anti-choice" and has set the stage to "dismantle reproductive freedom."

"One vacancy in the US Supreme Court could tip the scale against Roe, reproductive freedom and what we consider to be privacy rights," Neitlich said. "There's a culture in Washington right now that is eroding women's basic rights, whether it is birth control rights, the newest reproductive technology or even the right to basic health care services."

Wednesday's protest by Kopp supporters was also criticized by the mainstream anti-abortion movement.

Dr. Richard Escobales, a spokesman for the Pro-Life Office of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, said the church denounces the Army of God, sponsors of Wednesday's protest.

"The Army of God is not an army and is not a God," Escobales said. "You will always have fringe elements who go with the lunatic fringe. But that is not the way to address this issue. The way to address this issue is vote for pro life candidates and support, by peaceful means, the change in this outrageous decision."

Escobales says the Roe vs. Wade decision is a "frontal assault" on equal protection and due process, the basic protections of the US Constitution. He says that should be troubling to every American and calls the 30-year-old decision a "national tragedy."

In a related development, the start of Kopp's trial on murder charges is being delayed once again. Defense attorney Bruce Barket says the planned February 24th date for jury selection has been pushed into March.