Pro-Life Clinic Sues City To Get Next To Abortion Business

By Dustin Siggins Published on August 24, 2016

On July 5, pro-life pregnancy care center Hand of Hope was ready to become the pro-life neighbor of A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Raleigh, North Carolina — an abortion facility with thousands in regulatory fines under its belt.

Now, it’s suing the City Council for discrimination for not rezoning the lot next to the facility. The non-profit center paid $309,000 for the property, according to the lawsuit, and is suing on behalf of itself and the women and children its services would help.

“The City Council claimed that though it was the City’s plan to rezone the property just as Hand of Hope’s requested, it was premature to do so and that the City did not want to rezone their property,” Noel Sterett, an attorney for Hand of Hope, told The Stream.

“According to councilwoman Kay Crowder … the Council preferred to rezone Hand of Hope’s property at a later date as part of a larger commercial project rather than in a piecemeal fashion with small lots,” continued Sterett in an e-mail. “The City Council’s statement is belied by the fact that the City apparently and separately approved the rezoning of 4 one-to-two acre properties close by Hand of Hope’s property in a piecemeal fashion.”

Approved and Then Denied

Three city agencies approved Hand of Hope request for a rezoning that would allow it to be situated next to the abortion center, Sterett said — the Citizen Advisory Council, the city’s Zoning Staff and the city’s Planning Commission. The latter agency unanimously approved the rezoning after holding a hearing and finding that Hand of Hope’s use “was entirely consistent with the City’s comprehensive plan and the surrounding uses and fit into all of the City’s other land use policies or goals.”

The city’s attorney declined to comment to The Stream about the City Council’s decision, saying the city had not yet been served with the suit. But according to the minutes of the July 5, 2016 meeting where the Council’s decision was made, the council voted 7-0 against Hand of Hope because it did not want “lot by lot piecemeal nonresidential development.” The council wanted, in Crowder’s words, a “coordinated approach would produce a more efficient use of the land” producing higher tax value,” and the “Council believes that this dead-end street should be rezoned for such uses when all the properties along Woodsdale Road are rezoned.”

The city did not respond to The Stream’s question about why the abortion business was allowed on the street but Hand of Hope was not.

A Preferred Women’s Health Clinic is one of four facilities in a chain that has two locations in North Carolina and two in Georgia. According to Operation Rescue’s Cheryl Sullenger, “A Preferred Women’s Health Center has been cited by OSHA 13 times for violations categorized as ‘serious’ ones related to health. Fines levied were in excess of $12,000, indicating just how severe the violations actually were.” She told The Stream that the documents don’t give the details of the violations.

Sterett said that the abortion business “actively opposed Hand of Hope’s use,” and that “We are still investigating the relationships or known positions of the City Council members on the issue of abortion.” The abortion center did not respond to The Stream’s request for comment about its involvement in the debate over Hand of Hope’s request.

City Favoritism?

It appears a different city agency — the Raleigh Board of Adjustments — gave a different abortion facility a variance letting them put up a fence higher than the city regulations allowed. The center, according to pro-life testimony, asked for the variance after installing the fence at an illegal height.

According to the minutes of the Board’s May 9, 2016 meeting, approval was granted 4-1, thanks to employees and a volunteer for A Woman’s Choice of Raleigh Inc., who claimed the higher fence provided more privacy and other benefits for women getting abortions, as well as for employees. An opponent of the variance said the height would prevent him from recording legal violations at the facility, and another said he and his wife would be prevented from effectively offering adoption services to women going to and from it.

According to the Board of Adjustments, “The variance is consistent with the spirit, purpose and intent of the ordinance such that public safety is secured, and substantial justice is achieved.” The Board did say its “decision is subject to review for fraud, material misrepresentation, or other misconduct at the proceeding or for violations on the subject property,” and that “if such a determination is made by the Board, its prior decision may be reversed, modified, or affirmed.”

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