Anti-abortion activists in Wichita, Kansas, are attempting to use zoning laws to close a local medical clinic that provides abortions, and one prominent activist is raising the specter of gun violence to do it.
The clinic, the South Wind Women’s Center, is housed in the same location where George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions, housed his offices before he was murdered by a gun-wielding abortion opponent in 2009.
Mark Gietzen (pictured, left), chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, told MSNBC that Kansas state concealed-carry gun laws mean that greater numbers of armed protestors may show up at the clinic. He said that this raised the threat of more shootings, a good reason to close the clinic down.
Julie Burkhart, the clinic’s director, said that the Tiller incident was the only gun violence on the site that she was aware of. But Gietzen recounted an alleged incident in which a man angry at him for protesting threatened him with a high-powered rifle.
“I talked him out of killing me,” Gietzen, claimed.
Gietzen also said that one of the clinic escorts, whose job is to insure the safety of women visiting the facility, had been verbally harassing protesters.
“The way this guy acts, I’m afraid that someone’s going to shoot him,” Gietzen said. “He’s asking for it.” He added that he would not support shooting the man because such an action would not be “good for the cause.”
Other anti-abortion groups disavowed Gietzen’s remarks.
"He said things nobody should say," said Kansans for Life Executive Director Mary Kay Culp, interviewed by the Topeka Capital-Journal. “Kansans for Life disagrees with and wishes to completely separate ourselves from Mr. Gietzen's controversial remarks.”
Cheryl Sullinger, senior policy advisor for the national anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, pointed out that her statements on the Wichita clinic have not mentioned gun violence. “I don’t think I would have done that,” she said.
SOURCES: Topeka Capital-Journal, MSNBC