Buttigieg Vetoed Rezoning For Pro-Life Center In 2018

Pete Buttigieg / Getty Images

Mayor Pete Buttigieg vetoed a South Bend Common Council rezoning decision in April 2018 that would have allowed a pro-life crisis pregnancy center to open next door to a proposed abortion clinic.

Common Council passed a 5-4 resolution changing the classification for a property sought by the pro-life Women's Care Center from "residential" to "office buffer," so it could operate next to the Texas-based Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, which hoped to establish a clinic providing chemically induced abortions.  

When Buttigieg vetoed the measure, he explained to reporters that he did so not for political reasons, but because he did not trust that the two facilities could not exist side-by-side without a serious conflict.

"Issues on the legality or morality of abortion are dramatically beyond my paygrade as a mayor," Buttigieg told the South Bend Tribune. "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."

Common Council Vice President Oliver Davis opposed Buttigieg, saying the veto set a bad precedent for future disagreements between businesses.

"We live in a diverse community," Davis said. "I'm concerned … now that a group can come before a zoning board and say, ‘We don't like that group… so we don't want them next to us.'"

Members of the Council who voted in favor of the rezoning said they were in part persuaded by written promises from Women's Care Center that the organization would not allow protesters to stage demonstrations on their property, the Tribune reported.

But Buttigieg, who in his 2019 memoir Shortest Way Home characterizes himself as a mayor focused on "data-driven decision making," said the numbers didn’t add up for the pro-life claim.

"I saw data that there was about triple the rate of violence or harassment issues when a clinic is located next to a crisis pregnancy center," Buttigieg told the Tribune. "It's about 21 percent, versus about 7 percent when there's not one right next to them. That was obviously a concern that got my attention."

Buttigieg addressed his personal views on abortion in an April 2 interview with CNN. The two-term mayor restated that he vetoed the pro-life claim to keep the neighborhood free from political strife.

"People think I did it for political reasons, which is probably the most hurtful because my political judgment told me that the simplest thing to do would be to quietly sign off and the issue would go away," Buttigieg said.

When asked about his own views on late-term abortion, Buttigieg said that he doesn't think he should not government should be involved in these decisions.

"At the end of the day these are, as I understand it, measures that are designed to preserve the life and health of the mother, who is only getting to that point, I imagine, for the most part, if she had every intention of carrying a pregnancy to term," he said. "And I just don't see how my intervention as a government official, making rules about what she can and can't do, is going to help."