The Circus Comes to Buffalo

Operation Rescue puts on a show in a slain abortion provider's hometown

"These issues are all related," echoes another audience member as she fiddles with her taped-on moustache. This last point is perhaps the only one on which Operation Save America participants and their opponents agree. The drag fundraiser was put on because "the same agenda that restricts abortion and limits birth control also prevents us...from [having] full rights as citizens," according to the program. And, if Operation Rescue members infiltrated the event, no doubt it would confirm their worst (or best?) fears. Lesbians, gay men, and people of color are supporting abortion rights. They are openly in favor of sex. And they rarely mention Jesus.

But in the parallel universes, such observations mean opposite things. At an Operation Save America youth rally in the uffalo Christian Center (the B seems to have fallen off the aging building), 18-year-old Courtney Anne Powley patiently explains why she's content with women having the "helpmate" role. "Men are supposed to be the leaders, the protectors," she says over the din of Operation Exodus, a rock band. Meanwhile, a prochoice group named Refuse & Resist hands out its version of a fetus picture—a photo of a 1950s housewife emptying a dishwasher, captioned "These are women's rights on Operation Rescue."'

Face to screaming face on the Buffalo streets, there is no way to reconcile these viewpoints. But, in the court of public opinion, Operation Rescue may be losing out. By bringing such issues as gender roles to the forefront, the group seems to have jeopardized whatever sympathy clinic "rescuers" had carved out for themselves. Those who truly believe abortion is murder can justify clinic protests as "lifesaving." But, even in conservative America, few people are willing to accept Operation Save America's insistence that women should not lead, that gays should go back in the closet, that far-out evangelism is the only religion to choose.

Far-out as Operation Rescue now is, some have come to believe the best response to it is no response. "Why egg them on?" asks a woman stuck in the traffic near GYN Womenservices. But for one prochoicer, an elderly Jewish woman with a German accent who has traveled from California to protest Operation Save America, the answer is simple: "They won't go away if you ignore them," she says knowingly. "You have to stand up and be counted."

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