Words cannot bridge gap, though foes are face to face

May 03, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch

AMHERST, N.Y. -- Foes in the abortion battle stand face to face, jammed between the barricades with nowhere to run, close enough to feel the gusts of each other's breath.

Through the morning and into the afternoon Friday, they are stuck with each other on a muddy path outside an abortion clinic.

"If you had an open mind, you would read this," says anti-abortion activist Gary Jelich of New York City, trying to hand a pamphlet to a young bespectacled woman who supports abortion rights.

They exchange a few more words, about children, about life, family. Then Mr. Jelich raises his voice, "When I get a wife, she'll be pro-life. She'll give life to every baby she conceives."

"You're a racist, sexist pig," the woman says, then shouts a chant: 'Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay, Born-Again Bigots Go Away..."

A few feet away stands the Rev. Paul Schenck. A local leader of Operation Rescue, he is silently trying to elbow his way through the mob, closer to the driveway leading into the clinic. His path is blocked by abortion-rights advocates.

He faces Eric Gallion of Buffalo as one woman stands between them.

"Why don't you hit me?" says Mr. Schenck. "You want to, don't you? Punch me, exorcise your anger."

No, says Mr. Gallion. "I won't give you the satisfaction."

A young woman spots Mr. Schenck, raises her voice to a shout: "You make me sick, you totally make me sick."

Don Miller of Buffalo looks a bit sad standing at the barricade, listening to the shouting and the chanting and looking across the street where members of the Operation Rescue hold such signs as "Jesus Is King," "Abortion -- A Deal With The Devil" and "Close America's Death Camps."

Mr. Miller has come to support abortion rights, but he's wondering aloud about the point of it. So much rage, and no one is listening to anyone, he says.

"This seems like a stupidity to me, on both sides," he says. "This is not where things are going to get changed."

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