May 1, 2018 // Diocese

Women’s Care Center denied rezoning request on South Bend’s west side

Bishop and Father Jenkins criticize mayor’s veto

FORT WAYNE — In statements made Friday, April 27, immediately following a veto by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg of a rezoning request made by the Women’s Care Center, the Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, joined Women’s Care Center Foundation President Ann Manion in expressing profound disappointment over the decision.

Women’s Care Center, a nationwide pregnancy assistance provider that began in South Bend in 1984, had approached the South Bend Common Council to request the rezoning of a property on Lincolnway West that is next door to a property at which Whole Woman’s Health Alliance is attempting to locate an abortion facility. The Indiana State Department of Health denied the license application of Whole Woman’s Health in January, but the Texas-based company is appealing the decision.

Women’s Care Center currently has a west side location in a small building on Chapin Street, but had hoped to establish a second, expanded office at the Lincolnway West location.

“I am deeply disappointed in yesterday’s decision by Mayor Pete Buttigieg to veto the rezoning request of the Women’s Care Center, which was approved by the South Bend Common Council this past Monday,” said Bishop Rhoades.

“Women who experience a crisis pregnancy often say that they feel they have no other option than abortion, and the Women’s Care Center exists precisely to offer these vulnerable women a real choice. 

“What started as a small outreach to women in crisis in downtown South Bend over three decades ago has grown to become the largest, most successful pregnancy resource center in America, serving 26,000 women annually from 29 centers in 10 states. How unfortunate that the Women’s Care Center has been denied, in its own hometown, the opportunity to expand their compassionate services to a location where it could best reach the women who could benefit most. 

Women’s Care Center first opened its doors in South Bend in 1984 and now provides support for pregnant women at 29 centers in 10 states.

“I share the mayor’s concern about the neighborhood, but for a different reason: a group from outside our community and state may open that not only discards innocent human life, but purports to give women a choice, when in fact it has vigorously opposed the Women’s Care Center that provides loving support for women and the choice to say yes to life.” 

Father Jenkins also spoke out immediately following the mayor’s veto.

“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. It doesn’t engage in political advocacy, but provides compassionate, non-judgmental loving care to women most in need. I am saddened by Mayor Buttigieg’s decision to veto a bill that would have allowed the Women’s Care Center to build a facility near one that seeks to provide abortions. 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. The mayor is a talented and dedicated public servant with whom I have worked closely to serve our community, but I am deeply disappointed by his decision.” 

Ann Manion, president of the Women’s Care Center Foundation, issued a statement on Monday expressing sadness about the action, but also appreciation for the pro-life efforts of so many supporters.

“We are sad that care for women and families in South Bend got caught up in politics. With the support of so many, Women’s Care Center has worked tirelessly for 34 years to provide help and hope to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Always without judgment. Two out of every three babies in South Bend now start with our centers. Twenty-two times our centers have been located near abortion clinics to provide love and support and offer a choice for life. There has never been an instance of violence.

“We are deeply grateful to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Father John Jenkins, the doctors, neighbors, clients, politicians and many others who supported us, and the hundreds and hundreds of people who attended two city council meetings to wear pink ribbons and voice support. We are amazed and grateful.

“This veto is a setback for Women’s Care Center. We are disappointed, but we are not leaving. As of today, 1,438 babies are expected to our moms in St. Joseph County. Our commitment continues.”

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