Abortion protests in the Buffalo area are not unique, but Mayor Griffin's outlook may have made it tougher on abortion clinics when they were first targeted here, a pro-choice advocate said Monday.
"There's not a particular pattern, and Buffalo is not particularly unique," Ann Baker said at a meeting of the Pro-Choice Network of Western New York in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo.
"I think the situation here started off badly, because Mayor Griffin supports the anti-abortion (view)."
Ms. Baker, a former Catholic nun, acts as a clearinghouse for those who favor a woman's right to abortion. Based in Roosevelt, N.J., she compiles computer lists of abortion protesters who have been arrested throughout the country. The information is disseminated through a newsletter, which also includes information on court cases, legislative updates and anti-abortion activity around the country.
She said the mayor's views may have influenced the relatively few arrests that were made when protesters first blocked an Elmwood Avenue clinic. She added that some judges who have been lenient with protesters have been endorsed by the Right to Life party.
"They can get arrested once a week in the Buffalo area, because they know nothing's going to happen to them," she said.
Ms. Baker said her analysis so far of those arrested in national anti-abortion protests since 1987 has shown that 40 percent of those arrested account for 75 percent of the arrests in various cities.
"This is not a grass-roots movement," she said of the anti-abortion movement.
Ms. Baker suggested a multifaceted offensive for abortion clinics and pro-choice groups in Buffalo, including filing complaints against leaders of abortion protests under racketeering laws. She said that tactic has been used successfully against anti-abortion protesters in Philadelphia.
"The very fact that Marilynn (Buckham) has to move her clinic is a form of extortion," Ms. Baker said of the executive director of Buffalo GYN Womenservices. The Elmwood Avenue abortion clinic has been told its lease would not be renewed.
Ms. Baker also recommended the pro-choice network identify voters who are inclined to vote for pro-choice candidates and identify and support political candidates who support the right to an abortion.
"I think we are in a very good position. I don't think we are in the driver's seat yet," Ms. Baker said.
She is the president of the 80 Percent Majority Campaign -- a name derived from Gallup polls showing four-fifths of Americans support legal abortion.
"Anywhere there are people, most of them will be pro-choice, I will bet my bottom dollar on it," she said.