Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 21, 2013

PFEIFFER: 20 years later, a calmer tone to Roe vs. Wade decision -- at least in Buffalo

Niagara Gazette — I remember my photographer and I being pushed backward over a police barricade and nearly trampled by protestors.

I remember an Amherst Police officer reaching to put a pair of flex cuffs on me and place me under arrest. (Luckily, his lieutenant dragged me to a curb and kept me out of jail.)

Yeah, I remember the spring of 1992.

I remember the journalism hell that was the Spring of Life.

Several months after the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade, Western New York became grond zero in America's war over abortion. 

Then Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin, a conservative and devout Catholic, had been asked at a news conference around the Roe v Wade anniversary how he felt about the so-called "rescue movement," an agressive form of anti-abortion protest that focused on the human blockade of abortion clinics. Griffin, always a loose cannon on a rolling deck, replied that he would "welcome" members of the movement if they wanted to come here to protest.

It was just the opportunity that Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, and the chief proponent of clinic blockades, would need to stage the "mother of all anti-abortion protests." Joined by local anti-abortion crusaders the Reverends Robert and Paul Schenck, Terry called for pro-life protestors to rally here for 10 days in April and May.

Abortion rights activists responded by saying they would rally here as well, to defend the clinics. 

The battle lines were drawn and local police agencies and journalists would end up in the middle of the nation's ideological war.

I was working as an anchor and investigative reporter at News 4 Buffalo at the time. While the protests were an all hands on deck kind of event for our newsroom, a number of us were told to expect to bear the brunt of the coverage demands.

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