Local News

Anti-abortion group seeks to move next to Raleigh women's clinic

Posted April 28, 2016 6:24 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2016 11:36 a.m. EDT

— An anti-abortion group wants to move its office next to a west Raleigh clinic that provides abortions.

The nonprofit A Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center purchased a residential lot in January adjacent to the site of A Preferred Women's Health Center, at 1604 Jones Franklin Road.

A Hand of Hope, which operates the Your Choice Pregnancy Clinic and provides free pregnancy services, has been leasing office space about a quarter-mile up Jones Franklin Road. Executive Director Tonya Nelson Baker said Thursday that owning an office rather than leasing would be cheaper, and the proposed move is good business strategy.

"We will be located right beside the abortion clinic, much like McDonald's is across the street from Burger King," Baker said. "It makes good business sense to go exactly where the people are that we're trying to reach."

A Hand of Hope has requested the former home be rezoned to allow office space, and the nonprofit cleared its first hurdle Tuesday when the West Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council voted 30-17 in favor of the change.

The recommendation next goes to the Raleigh Planning Commission, and it could be June before the City Council gets a chance to weigh in on the zoning request.

Lois Turner, the owner of A Preferred Women's Health Center, called the rezoning case underhanded and said it would lead only to intimidation of the clinic's patients.

"Abortion is not the right choice for everyone, but everyone has the right to make that choice," Turner said in a statement. "Hand of Hope has had a location directly across the street for years – this move is strictly an intimidation tactic. The outcome of this rezoning proposal will not affect any individual’s personal beliefs. However, if granted, it will cause disruption and difficulties for not only our business, but for our neighbors as well."

A Preferred Women's Health Center has attracted protesters in the past, and some nearby residents fear the protesters will return if A Hand of Hope is next door.

"The protesters like to show up on Saturday, and they bring lots of big signs and very graphic images that our children see," Carrie Rogers said. "With it being private property belonging to people who support the same cause as the protesters, I think it would be more likely to bring people back into the neighborhood."

A couple of anti-abortion fliers were on A Hand of Hope's property on Thursday.

Benson Kirkman, a former Raleigh City Council member who now co-chairs the West Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council, said concerns about conflict are understandable.

"There's always that potential. It's like a stepbrother moving in next to his hated stepbrother," Kirkman said. "You can anticipate that might happen, but it doesn't have to be that way."

Nelson said it won't be.

"Hand of Hope does not protest. It is against our policy and procedure to protest. We won't allow protesting on our property. That's just not who we are," she said.

Also, nobody will be standing outside luring people to her clinic, she said.