by Susan Gager
11:20 AM CST, February 5, 2013
It operated as an abortion clinic for years. Now an anti-abortion group wants the Wichita city council to change the zoning surrounding the clinic once operated by Doctor George Tiller. It presented a petition hoping to block a new clinic from opening in the same spot.
Kansans for life presented about 14,000 signatures to the Wichita city council. David Gittrich says when the late Doctor George Tiller operated the clinic, demonstrations like the Summer of Mercy caused traffic and safety issues for residents nearby.
“All the people can't park for blocks around. Can't even get in and out of their driveway. Traffic is jammed in every direction. It's like building a stadium in a residential neighborhood. That's why they have zoning, to put places where they should belong,” said Gittrich.
Abortion rights supporters question the groups motives.
“If they're truly interested in the welfare of the community and traffic conditions, they would stop harassing patients who are just trying to get healthcare,” said Wichita Now representative Corey Swertfager.
The clinic is already zoned to offer a variety of medical services for women. Abortion is just one of them. The group’s petition has no legal ramifications on re-zoning.
Still, city council member Jeff Longwell says this time around they have hindsight.
“We know legally we're not going to abolish abortion by passing any city ordinance but we need to make sure those activities are in the safest place that they can be in. They're not disruptive to the neighborhood so I think there are some legitimate concerns,” said Longwell.
Even if the clinic moved into a less residential area, Kansans for Life says it will still protest. The issue will be discussed at the planning commission later February 21. Representatives from both the clinic and Kansans for Life will attend. Trust Women is the group that plans to operate the new clinic. It is currently renovating the clinic to meet new state requirements.
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