In a controversial move, the City Council in Raleigh, North Carolina blocked a pregnancy resource center from moving onto the land it owns next to an abortion clinic on Tuesday.
The abortion clinic in Raleigh, A Preferred Women’s Health Center, has been fighting the pro-life pregnancy center’s request to have its land rezoned for the past few months. A Hand of Hope pregnancy center bought the land last year and hoped to move in there to better serve pregnant and parenting moms and their families.
However, The News Observer reports the city council rejected the pregnancy center’s rezoning request in a unanimous vote on Tuesday
Here’s more from the report:
Under the city’s zoning code, only residential uses are allowed on the property, which Hand of Hope bought last year. So the group asked the City Council to rezone the property to allow for commercial use. Hand of Hope wanted to draw more clients and save money by relocating its office from a space it leases less than a mile down the street.
The issue divided area residents and council members for weeks. Some thought the ideological differences would raise tensions in the community, while others downplayed those concerns and argued that Hand of Hope has a right to operate there.
The city’s Planning Commission – residents appointed by the City Council to judge whether such land-use requests are in compliance with city codes – unanimously recommended approval of Hand of Hope’s request.
But the City Council on Tuesday cited those same city codes when rejecting Hand of Hope’s request, and didn’t mention abortion or neighborhood tensions at all.
According to news reports, the city council members did not bring up abortion at all during their discussion; their discussion focused city planning efforts.
Brandi Kraus, a local resident, spoke up at the meeting on behalf of the pregnancy center, WRAL reports.
“If an abortion clinic is located there, why not give women another choice to save their pregnancy, to save their baby,” Kraus said.
Tonya Baker Nelson, director of the pro-life pregnancy center, said she was shocked by the vote.
“From all our research, it looked like our request fit right into the UDO (Raleigh’s development guidelines) and we were following all the rules laid out for us, step-by-step,” Nelson said.
Leaders of the abortion clinic have been fighting the pregnancy center’s rezoning request from the start. They argued that the pro-life pregnancy center and its supporters would harass women seeking abortions.
Nelson refuted the claims, saying her organization does not harass women or encourage or allow protesters on its property.
“We don’t need to protest to attract ourselves to the community,” Nelson told the council previously.
“We will be located right beside the abortion clinic, much like McDonald’s is across the street from Burger King,” Nelson continued previously. “It makes good business sense to go exactly where the people are that we’re trying to reach.”
Abortion supporters’ opposition to the move is interesting, considering that they call themselves “pro-choice.” Abortion clinics typically offer women just one “choice” — abortion, while pregnancy resource centers offer women alternatives to abortion, including parenting and adoption resources. If pro-abortion people support giving women a “choice” to abort, give birth or make an adoption plan, they should welcome a pregnancy center that offers women alternatives to abortion.
According to its website, Hands of Hope operates two pregnancy centers in North Carolina where it offers free and confidential pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STD testing, options counseling and more. The pro-life center says it “exists solely to truly offer women and men who are experiencing an unexpected pregnancy a real choice in their decision making process.”