Kansas anti-abortion advocate dies in Nebraska plane crash
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A long-time conservative and Kansas abortion opponent died this week in a plane crash in Holt County, Nebraska.
The Holt County Sheriff’s Office said several crews responded to the scene of the crash around 1:03 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16, but it’s unclear when the crash actually happened. The crash was located four miles east, two miles north and 1.2 miles east of Chambers, Nebraska.
The pilot, identified as 69-year-old Mark Gietzen, of Wichita, Kan., was pronounced dead on the scene. The aircraft was identified as a 1963 Cessna 172.
The sheriff’s office said the aircraft had flown from Newton, Kan., and was headed to North Dakota at the time of the crash.
The sheriff’s office secured the crash scene. Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived Wednesday morning at the crash site. The cause of the crash is undetermined.
Gietzen is most well known for his decades of activism against abortion, particularly during what came to be known as the “Summer of Mercy” in 1991.
Identified as a staunch conservative, and a former leader of the Sedgwick County Republican Party, Gietzen helped drive a shift in local politics, converting once long-time Democratic seats into GOP strongholds. Although never elected, he was a candidate himself a few times in state and local elections.
Gietzen served as the chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, a group opposing abortion in Kansas.
Just last year, Gietzen led an effort to force a recount of the August vote on what was called the “Value them Both” amendment. Voters rejected that amendment which sought to clarify that the state constitution did not protect the right to an abortion.
Gietzen led the recount effort on the amendment question, paying for most of that out of his own pocket. He was persistent, even when the recount didn’t change the outcome. Regardless of where people stand on hot-button issues, Gietzen was recognized for fighting for causes in which he strongly believed.
“He was one that gave basically everything he had to the things that he believed in and you have to respect that,” Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell said.
In a post on Facebook, the Kansas Republican Party asked for prayers for Gietzen’s family.
“Prayers for Mark, his family, and his friends are encouraged at this challenging time,” reads the post. “Mark was known, loved and respected by many across Kansas for his endless efforts to save babies from abortion. His presence, determination and hard work will be greatly missed.”
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