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Brevard needs to support operation of women's clinic

By Editorial Staff
Published June 14, 2000

A FLORIDA TODAY editorial

More than a quarter-century after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to an abortion, the battle to provide the procedure in Brevard County is far from over.

That’s disturbing — and embarrassing for an otherwise progressive community.

The debate over abortion continues on the Space Coast and throughout the nation, and rightfully so, but the lawful provision of that and related services should be routine.

Should be, but isn’t.

The latest setback for local abortion providers came last week when WomanCare of Melbourne was notified that its lease of a facility in a Suntree shopping center would not be renewed.

Tammy Sobieski, the clinic’s director and owner, said she has received many calls with offers of money to pay moving expenses, and rental space.

“It seems more people are saying we all are responsible for our community, that they aren’t going to keep quiet anymore about a small but vocal group (that opposes the clinic),” Sobieski said.

A spokesman for the company that owns the property, New York-based Imperial Sterling Ltd., refused to discuss the matter with a reporter, but many county residents speculate that the ongoing controversy surrounding the woman’s clinic was a factor in the lease decision.

If so, the lease termination is another victory, of sorts, for the anti-abortion activists who have bitterly opposed the existence of that facility and its predecessors in the county for more than 20 years.

During those years, the activists often have gone beyond the bounds of civility — and sometimes beyond the bounds of legality — in their demonstrations and other activities aimed at the clinics and patients.

In the past, patrons of the facilities have been harassed, and the operations of the clinics have been disrupted.

Such behavior shouldn’t be tolerated.

In the meantime, the defenders of women’s reproductive rights aren’t about to give up.

Patricia Baird-Windle, who operated a women’s clinic in Melbourne for more than two decades before retiring last year, views WomanCare’s situation as another challenge in a long struggle.

“This is the best opportunity for you citizens of Brevard to put your money where your mouths are, in favor of the right to choose,” Baird-Windle said in a guest column in Florida Today on Monday. “Keep abortion safe, legal and available in Brevard.”

That’s good advice that should be taken seriously.

The residents of Brevard County must not be intimidated by a noisy faction that would force women to surrender their right to choose.

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