UNITED STATES NEWS

Mark Gietzen, abortion foe who forced recount of Kansas vote, dies in plane crash at 69

May 17, 2023, 12:54 PM

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Mark Gietzen, a longtime conservative Republican and anti-abortion activist in Kansas who forced a recount of the state’s decisive vote affirming abortion rights last year has died in a plane crash. He was 69.

The Kansas Republican Party said in a Facebook post that Gietzen, of Wichita, died Tuesday evening in Nebraska.

He was flying a single-engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk when it crashed in a field near O’Neill, Nebraska, about 190 miles (306 kilometers) northwest of Omaha, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s crash log. Gietzen was the only person on board and the log said the plane crashed “in unknown circumstances.”

Jim Howell, a county commissioner in Sedgwick County, Kansas, which includes Wichita, told The Wichita Eagle that Gietzen had flown to Nebraska to visit his mother.

Gietzen grew up in the Bismarck, North Dakota, area and served in the U.S. Marines before coming to Kansas in the late 1970s to work for aircraft manufacturer Boeing Corp. He became chair of Sedgwick County GOP after “Summer of Mercy” anti-abortion protests in Wichita in 1991 and recruited anti-abortion activists into the party.

A fellow anti-abortion activist, Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, described Gietzen as “irreplaceable.”

Newman told The Eagle: “He was the hardest-working guy I know in the pro-life movement.”

In August 2022, voters statewide rejected Republicans’ proposed amendment to the state constitution to declare that it doesn’t protect abortion rights, which would have allowed the GOP-controlled Legislature to ban abortion.

When a handful of anti-abortion activists demanded a hand recount of ballots in nine counties that accounted for more than half the vote, Gietzen used credit cards to cover most of the $120,000 cost so that it could proceed.

The recount filed a lawsuit seeking a statewide hand recount, but a judge dismissed it.

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Mark Gietzen, abortion foe who forced recount of Kansas vote, dies in plane crash at 69