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PRO-CHOICE ADVOCATES SICKENED BY STATEMENT

Lynne Slepian didn't even read the Buffalo News story detailing James C. Kopp's confession in her husband's killing.

That's how faithful Mrs. Slepian was to prosecutors' wishes, not to comment on the case Wednesday or even read the story in which Kopp admitted shooting Dr. Barnett A. Slepian to death.

"I've been instructed not to say anything, in case some of the material is used later, in the trial," she said in a brief phone conversation Wednesday. "I was told not to read it, so I'm not reading it."

While Mrs. Slepian fended off reporters Wednesday, activists in the local pro-choice community were anything but silent in their reactions to Kopp's confession.

Many were relieved, even pleased, that Kopp confessed, reducing the chances that he could be acquitted on murder charges.

But more than that, pro-choice activists were sickened and horrified -- in their own words -- about several elements in Kopp's reported comments, including his claim that he didn't try to kill Slepian, his details about how he stalked Slepian and the prospect that his murder trial could attract "James Kopp wanna-bes" to Buffalo.

The angriest seemed to be Glenn E. Murray, a local pro-choice attorney and a good friend of the Slepian family.

Murray said he was sickened by the published comments, which he called "a manifesto preaching James Kopp's twisted justification of terrorism" against abortion providers.

"I'm horrified that in his trial, with his change in defense gears after he claimed he was innocent when he was arrested in France, he now hopes to publicly promote using bullets and bombs against doctors and clinics," Murray added, during a lengthy interview. "This will again make Buffalo the battleground of an anti-abortion campaign of extortion, including veiled and not-so-veiled threats of violence."

Murray now is bracing for the circus that he fears the upcoming murder trial will become. A murder trial is expected to begin in February before Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico.

"I'm horrified to think his trial will be a convention of pro-life extremists, including cheerleaders for violence and James Kopp wannabes," Murray said.

Kopp's confession led several pro- choice leaders to compare him to either Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, al-Qaida suicide hijackers or the Washington, D.C., snipers.

"Every citizen outraged and sickened by al-Qaida should be similarly outraged and sickened by James Kopp," said Lucinda M. Finley, a University at Buffalo law professor. "The only difference is the number of people killed or injured."

Finley said she felt a mixture of relief, outrage and being sickened about Kopp's confession.

"I feel anger and disgust that anybody could be so twisted and evil that they believe the way to promote their political cause is to go around and shoot people," she added. "That sickens me."

Marilynn Buckham, administrator of Buffalo GYN Womenservices clinic, said she was angry about the possibility that Kopp could be turned into a martyr, just as some tried to portray McVeigh.

But she's confident Western New Yorkers in the jury pool for Kopp's murder trial won't believe he was justified in the killing.

"He's insulting the people in this community by thinking that he could get acquitted," she said. "People in this community know what he is. He's a coldblooded assassin and a murderer. He's no better than the people from 9/1 1 or the (Washington) snipers."

And several pro-choice activists snickered at Kopp's claim that he meant only to wound Slepian.

"James Kopp claiming he only shot to wound is like Timothy McVeigh saying he never intended to hurt any children when he blew up a building with a day care center," said Murray, the pro-choice attorney.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a group in Arlington, Va., that sponsors abortion-clinic defense programs, called Kopp's confession a decision to try to reduce his sentence.

"What this does is shift the talk away from the question, 'Did he do it?' and toward his argument that he did it, but didn't mean to kill him," she said.

No jury ought to buy that argument, Smeal added. Given that Kopp was on the lam for 2 1/2 years and still won't name his accomplices, "no one should believe his claims of remorse," Smeal said.

Like others, Helen Dalley, president of the local Pro-Choice Network, emphasized that the upcoming murder trial should focus on the shooting itself, not on the topic of abortion.

Dalley also questioned use of the term "pro-life" for Kopp now.

"I can't say that somebody is pro-life if they're out there killing people," she said. "I do believe that the pro-life movement has turned into a deadly movement for the extremists."

Pro-choice supporters also vowed not to be cowed by the violent acts of a few.

"Terrorism will not keep reproductive health providers from providing safe access to care," said Dana P. Neitlich, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Buffalo and Erie County. "It is evident on a day-to-day basis to those on the front lines of providing care, that where there is one James Kopp, there are many. . . . Mr. Kopp's act of terror must be adamantly opposed by a free-thinking American society."

Murray, the pro-choice attorney, mentioned all the pro-life literature claiming that Kopp couldn't have killed Slepian, that he wasn't violent, that his eyesight wouldn't allow him to fire such a precise shot, that the government framed him and even that Slepian could have been killed by pro-choice extremists fearing he might stop performing abortions.

"These people who published 100-page essays claiming James Kopp was framed must feel pretty stupid now," he said.

Murray is concerned about the prospects now for Kopp's murder trial and for the extremists he fears it will attract.

"This trial is like the trials of other pro-life assassins who raise a defense not recognized by law," he said. "He's going to have a tough time finding jurors who will excuse a premeditated, deliberate, political assassination. This was an extortionate attack on democracy, hoping to succeed with bullets after failure at the ballot box."

Murray also was asked how he would react as a friend of both Barnett and Lynne Slepian.

"Kopp confessing how premeditated and deliberate his stalking and shooting was makes me sick, especially when he has no remorse and wants to use the trial to encourage and condone assassination," he replied.

Washington Bureau Reporter Jerry Zremski contributed to this report.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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