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Anti-abortion groups to again ask Wichita City Council to rezone area near women’s clinic

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, August 12, 2013, at 3:42 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, at 10:55 a.m.

Several anti-abortion groups on Tuesday will renew their call for the Wichita City Council to rezone the eastside neighborhood at Kellogg and Bleckley so abortions can’t be performed at a longtime women’s clinic there.

Representatives from Kansans for Life, Operation Rescue, Word of Life Church and the Kansas Coalition for Life want to prevent the South Wind Women’s Center from performing abortions at the site of George Tiller’s former clinic at 5107 E. Kellogg Drive.

In a Monday afternoon news release, the groups cited several gun incidents at the site during Tiller’s years at the clinic, the unwillingness of South Wind’s security to communicate with them to “defuse violence” before it occurs and the antagonism of South Wind escorts toward anti-abortion demonstrators.

In addition, the groups say it is inappropriate for schoolchildren to see the protests and graphic signs associated with a clinic performing abortions.

“The reason they cite is that we’re a nuisance to the neighborhood,” said Julie Burkhart, the executive director of Trust Women, which opened the clinic. “From our perspective, it’s the anti crowd and their protests that are the nuisance.”

In February, Kansans for Life delivered petitions to the City Council signed by almost 14,000 people calling for the rezoning. The council immediately referred the issue to the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, which voted 6-4 on Feb. 21 against initiating any rezoning.

At that time, city officials expressed doubt that any unilateral rezoning would stand up against a court challenge from Trust Women. Council members also were concerned about the private property rights questions any council intervention would raise.

“In talking with people, it seems it would be rather unprecedented for the City Council to force the planning commission to have a hearing and make a decision when they’ve already voted not to,” Burkhart said.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bwilsoneagle.

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