Last week, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, vetoed a rezoning bill that would allow a pro-life pregnancy center to move across the street from a proposed abortion facility.
Just a few days before, City Council approved the rezoning plans, 5-4, a couple of weeks after Women’s Care Center rallied about 200 supporters to join them at a City Council meeting on April 10.
Following the decision, abortion activists of Pro-Choice South Bend submitted a petition of about 400 signatures to the mayor, demanding he veto it.
Next door to the location, Whole Woman’s Health Alliance—the Texas abortion group from the Supreme Court case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which threw health and safety standards out the window for abortion providers—is hoping to open an abortion facility.
In January, the Indiana State Department of Health denied its application, though Whole Woman’s Health is appealing that decision.
Defending his veto, Buttigieg told WSBT 22, “In my view it is not the answer for the neighborhood. I don't think it would be responsible to situate two groups literally right next to each other in a neighborhood that have diametrically opposed views on the most divisive social issue of our time."
But Rev. John I. Jenkins, University of Notre Dame President and board member for Women’s Care, doesn’t see his organization’s work as divisive.
“The Women’s Care Center, on whose board I serve, gives women in crisis the support they need for themselves and their babies before and after birth,” he said in a statement responding to the mayor's decision. “It doesn’t engage in political advocacy, but provides compassionate, non-judgmental loving care to women most in need.”
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Contrary to the compassionate work described by Father Jenkins, Buttigieg argued that violence and harassment increase when pregnancy centers are located next to abortion facilities.
Ann Manion, President of Women’s Care Center, offered a different perspective.
“Twenty-two times our centers have been located near abortion clinics to provide love and support and offer a choice for life,” she said in a statement. “There has never been an instance of violence.”
In a letter to Women’s Care Center, Buttigieg explained that even though the pregnancy center had taken steps to work with the city, he still believed the community would not benefit from having a pregnancy center next to the proposed abortion center.
But he did acknowledge the “good work” that Women’s Care Center does at their many facilities throughout the region. Indeed, the broader community has benefited from the work of Women’s Care Center for decades now—34 years, according to Manion.
Now, she says, two out of every three babies born in South Bend start with their centers.
“We are sad that care for women and families in South Bend got caught up in politics,” Manion said.
Despite the veto, Women’s Care Center will continue serving South Bend families.
“This veto is a setback for Women’s Care Center,” she said. “We are disappointed but we are not leaving. As of today, 1,438 babies are expected to our moms in South Bend/Mishawaka. Our commitment continues.”