Anti-abortion group will soon open facility next to Raleigh women's clinic
Posted December 10, 2019 12:13 p.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2019 6:52 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — An anti-abortion group will soon start operating next door to a Raleigh clinic that provides abortions as part of a legal settlement with the city.
A Hand of Hope ministry, which operates the Your Choice Pregnancy Clinic and provides free pregnancy services, purchased property at 1522 Jones Franklin Road four years ago for its new office. The site is next to A Preferred Women's Health Center.
When the Raleigh City Council rejected a zoning change to allow the ministry to move in, Hand of Hope sued. The organization argued that the city had violated its First Amendment rights to get a message out to a specific audience and its equal protection rights under the Constitution because city planning guidelines would allow churches, civic clubs and other groups to locate on the property.
The City Council had said a zoning change would be inconsistent with the city's comprehensive development plan because it wouldn't be the most efficient use of the property or generate as much tax value as a large, more coordinated office development.
"We do live in America, and you cannot discriminate based on religious, your religious belief system. So, we felt like we had a constitutional right to be in the property that we own," said Tonya Baker Nelson, chief executive of Hand of Hope.
Under a proposed settlement, which isn't yet finalized and still must be approved by the City Council, Hand of Hope will drop its lawsuit in exchange for $25,000 and the right to use its Jones Franklin Road property.
The settlement precludes any protests on the Hand of Hope property, although protesters are still free to use the public right-of-way along the property.
"Women are intimidated by groups at that clinic every single weekend. They’re yelled at, they’re intimidated, they’re called names," said state Rep. Julia von Haefen. "To put a crisis pregnancy center right next door to this clinic, it seems to me is just asking for trouble."
Nelson said her group doesn’t protest and isn't looking to start trouble.
"What we’re looking for is an opportunity to share with women who are in the middle of making a pregnancy decision that they do have choices, that abortion is not their only choice, that they can continue to choose their baby and chose life and choose motherhood," Nelson said.
The settlement also sets out conditions under which the Your Choice Pregnancy Clinic can operate under existing zoning, such as limiting medical services to pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and providing some prescriptions, setting aside no more than 25 percent of the property for such services and offering the services to only about one-fourth of clients.
Abortion rights supporters planned a Tuesday evening meeting at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church to discuss the prospect of the two facilities side by side. They call crisis pregnancy centers, which receive more than $2 million a year in state grants, "fake clinics" that give out medically inaccurate information to persuade women against having abortions.