SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The mayor of South Bend, Indiana has vetoed a vote by city council granting a pro-life organization’s request that the property adjacent to a tentative abortion facility be rezoned to allow them to operate a pregnancy center there.
“In my judgment, the neighborhood would not benefit from having the zoning law changed in order to place next door to each other two organizations with deep and opposite commitments on the most divisive social issue of our time,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg said in a letter to the common council.
“However respectful and well-intentioned the people I have met from both proposed facilities, I do not find that the neighborhood would benefit from placing them in close proximity to one another,” he opined.
The city council had voted on Monday 5-4 to grant the request of Women’s Care Center to rezone the property from residential to office use. The Texas-based group Whole Woman’s Health Alliance has been seeking to open a non-surgical abortion facility next door, and is in the midst of appealing a denial of its abortion license application.
Buttigieg stated during a press conference that he had viewed data asserting that violence or harassment increases when an abortion facility and a pro-life pregnancy center are positioned adjacent to each other. He consequently contended that it would be better for Women’s Care Center to choose another location elsewhere that is already zoned for office use.
However, the organization noted that its donor would only fund the effort if the pregnancy center is next door. Women’s Care Center has three locations in the city.
“I have great respect and appreciation for the people who serve at the Women’s Care Center, and for the work that they do to support new and expecting parents. I know that they will continue to do good work at their many existing facilities in our region,” Buttigieg said. “In addition, they may expand this work to future locations in the city that are properly zoned for this purpose, or that could be rezoned without causing the unique concerns associated with this site.”
“Still, in my judgment, a change in zoning to emplace them as close as possible to a provider of abortion services is not appropriate because of the risks that this would pose to the harmony, character and value of this neighborhood,” he concluded.
The president of the University of Notre Dame, John Jenkins, who serves on the board of Women’s Care Center, decried the decision in an official statement.
“The mayor’s decision excludes an important presence from that neighborhood and thwarts plans that had met the criteria for rezoning and had been approved by the Common Council. Far from enhancing the harmony of the neighborhood, it divides our community and diminishes opportunities for vulnerable women to have a real choice,” he said.
Proverbs 24:11-12 exhorts, “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain, if thou sayest, ‘Behold, we knew it not,’ doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? And He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? And shall not He render to every man according to his works?”