WASHINGTON - A state senator from Manhattan has labeled the Rev. Frank Pavone, head of the Dongan Hills-based Priests for Life, an "extremist" and urged abortion rights groups to protest his appearance tonight at a National Right to Life Committee dinner in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
In a letter this week to the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Democratic state Sen. Eric Schneiderman grouped Father Pavone with such other "enemies of choice" as James Kopp, the recently arrested prime suspect in the 1998 killing of Dr. Barnett Slepian, the Buffalo obstetrician and abortion provider.
Schneiderman charged that Father Pavone "openly advocates criminal activity to harass abortion providers."
The letter was denounced yesterday as "incendiary" and "outrageous" by Catholic League President William Donohue. "Schneiderman has crossed the line and should apologize," Donohue said.
"I have long said that there are irresponsible people in the pro-life movement, some of whom are downright crazy," Donohue said, noting that the senator had provided no evidence for his allegation. "But most are good, decent people who just want to stop the killing."
Abortion-rights supporters have accused Father Pavone and his group of endorsing different kinds of blockades against abortion clinics. He has said that he views these kind of tactics as "morally acceptable" but has no plans to adopt them.
Father Pavone says he has condemned the use of violence against abortion clinics and doctors. After Kopp's arrest last month, the Staten Island priest said his group was offering a $50,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to the capture of fugitives wanted for abortion clinic shootings.