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Wichita anti-abortion activist Mark Gietzen dies in plane crash

Mark Gietzen protests outside a Wichita abortion clinic in 2022. Gietzen died Tuesday in a plane crash.
Rose Conlon
/
Kansas News Service
Mark Gietzen protests outside a Wichita abortion clinic in 2022. Gietzen died Tuesday in a plane crash.

Gietzen died Tuesday night in Nebraska when his Cessna 172 crashed into a field. He was 69.

Mark Gietzen, a longtime conservative Republican and anti-abortion activist in Wichita 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 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 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 Sedgwick County commissioner, 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 Wichita in the late 1970s to work for Boeing. 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.

Gietzen was a steadfast presence outside Wichita abortion clinics, organizing protests and using what many considered intimidating tactics.

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.”

Gietzen founded the political group Kansas Republican Assembly, and he ran for mayor of Wichita in 2019. He finished fifth in the nine-candidate primary field.

In August 2022, voters statewide rejected Republicans' proposed amendment to the state constitution to declare that it doesn't protect abortion rights. That could 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 confirmed the results of the election, and Gietzen then filed a lawsuit seeking a statewide hand recount, but a judge dismissed it.

Before that election, Gietzen had filed suit to prevent the use of ballot drop boxes in the county. A judge dismissed the suit.