BUFFALO, N.Y. — Activists on both sides of the abortion issue noisily clashed on the steps of a federal courthouse Sunday, the first day of a weeklong campaign by abortion foes.
Speaking over the shouts of abortion rights advocates, Operation Rescue National Director Flip Benham restated plans to use Operation Save America to spread their message at clinics, schools and bookstores in the Buffalo area throughout the week. Protesters will denounce abortion, child pornography and teen sex.
Local and national organizers have sent out 60,000 invitations, and Operation Rescue has encouraged people to "storm the gates of hell" in Buffalo from April 18 to 25.
Whether followers would obey a court order to remain 15 to 60 feet from specified doctors' offices, clinics and hospitals remained uncertain.
"We feel we need to honor God's law first. No man's law can be worthy unless it first honors God's law," said Eileen Schopf, spokeswoman for Operation Save America and Last Call Ministries.
Protesters who invade the established buffer zones may face contempt and trespassing charges carrying penalties of up to two years in prison.
Abortion rights activists have condemned the timing and choice of location for Operation Save America. The demonstrations were announced a week after last October's sniper killing of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian inside his home in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, with organizers calling Buffalo a "battleground."
Schopf said the event was planned long in advance of the doctor's death, which remains unsolved, and was made public shortly after in response to media inquiries about the future of the anti-abortion movement.