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Longtime clinic owner bows out

By Editorial Staff
Published August 6, 1999

Pro-life demonstrations, legal battles take toll, Baird-Windle says

By Jeff Schweers, FLORIDA TODAY

MELBOURNE — After 22 years of providing abortions for women in Brevard County, Patricia Baird-Windle no longer is running the Aware Woman Center for Choice.

The clinic has been operated by the Orlando-based Women’s Health Center since July 1 under an arrangement worked out in June, after the 64-year-old Baird-Windle was hospitalized for a heart condition.

Baird-Windle’s departure from Aware Woman — now called Women’s Health Center — doesn’t mean she’s getting out of the fight for women’s choice. She said she’ll continue to be politically active and is writing a book about the history of the women’s reproductive rights movement.

“I’m not cashing in, honey,” Baird-Windle said Thursday. “I’m just no longer running clinics.”

The controversial clinic owner, who became a focus of national prolife activists during the past decade, admitted the constant protests and legal battles wore her out.

She also said that Meredith Raney, who has led the fight locally to shut down Aware Woman, finally got to her. He has organized pickets at the clinic and her home, and is named in at least six lawsuits involving the clinic.

“It has taken him 10 years to make me change my direction,’‘ she said: “But I’m still fighting.”

Raney was happy to bear Baird-Windle has retired, but he saw it as mainly symbolic. Aware Woman figured in a U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld a buffer zone around clinic entrances.

“It is somewhat satisfying that this abortion clinic chain called Aware Woman no longer exists (in name only),” Raney said.

The clinic will move to a new location after Aug. 14, when the state Department of Transportation will take ownership of the property to widen U.S. 1. A new site has not been announced.

“This clinic will not close,” said Tammy Sobieski, director of the Women’s Health Center, a 23-year-old Central Florida abortion clinic that also operates a clinic in Daytona Beach.

Sobieski and Baird-Windle would not say whether Aware Woman was sold to Women’s Health Center or discuss other aspects of the business arrangement.


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