In the latest move in an on-going North Carolina battle, a Raleigh abortion clinic filed an appeal asking the city to reverse its decision to allow a pro-life pregnancy center to become its neighbor.
Since last spring, a Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center has been seeking the city’s permission to move into the building it bought next to A Preferred Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic.
In November, the city’s zoning staff announced it would allow the pregnancy center to move in; but last week, the abortion clinic’s owners at The Schnider Group LLC appealed the decision, citing a matter of zoning interpretation, The News & Observer reports.
The legal issue involves city zoning ordinances and whether the pregnancy center is a civic group or a medical facility, according to the report. However, abortion politics appear to be at the root of the nine-month dispute.
Employees of the Raleigh abortion clinic have been fighting the pregnancy center’s request from the start. It claims that the pro-life pregnancy center and its supporters will harass women seeking abortions.
In its latest attempt to thwart the pro-life effort, the abortion clinic’s owners claim the city was wrong to consider the pregnancy center a “civic group.” It claims the pregnancy center is a medical facility and therefore, according city zoning ordinances, should not be allowed to move in next door.
Here’s more from the local news report:
On its website, Hand of Hope says it offers pregnancy tests, tests for sexually transmitted diseases and non-diagnostic ultrasounds. The health center, unlike city staff and Hand of Hope, considers those services to be medical in nature.
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“These are all medical diagnostic tools which should be performed in controlled settings by trained staff,” Calla Hales, the [abortion] center’s spokeswoman, wrote in its appeal.
“Additionally, Hand of Hope states that they provide ‘non-diagnostic ultrasounds’ to show expectant mothers an ‘image of a child’s beating heart or fingers and toes,’ which is contradictory – providing a woman with information about fetal viability is, in fact, a diagnostic tool,” Hales wrote.
Hand of Hope’s move could also worsen traffic and enable activists to block access to the health center’s facility, Hales wrote.
Hand of Hope’s Executive Director Tonya Baker Nelson said the staff and volunteers at Hand of Hope do not make medical diagnoses, nor do they encourage protests or block access to the abortion facility. She also told the news outlet that Wake County health officials are the ones who come on-site to do STD testing, not her staff or volunteers.
“We’re not making a medical diagnosis. We don’t say ‘You’re pregnant.’ We say you’ve had a positive pregnancy test,” Nelson said. “We’re very clear on what our role is. We’re not trying to be something we’re not.”
Jay Hobbs of Pregnancy Help News reported more about the situation for LifeNews in November:
The pregnancy center first encountered friction in late April from a handful of pro-abortion residents at a citizen’s advisory council meeting, followed by accusations from the abortion facility of what it called the pro-life group’s “underhanded” motives.
When the Raleigh City Council voted, 7-0, to deny Hand of Hope the right to use the property it purchased for its life-saving mission, citing previously unannounced zoning plans, Mauck & Baker LLC filed a lawsuit on the center’s behalf.
Challenging the city’s overreach on constitutional grounds, and arguing that the city’s actions violate the 2000 Religious Land & Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibits government entities from unduly discriminating against religious nonprofits like Hand of Hope, Mauck & Baker filed its lawsuit Aug. 17 in federal court.
The pro-life pregnancy 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.”