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Anti-abortion pregnancy crisis center files lawsuit against Raleigh

A Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center requested to change a property from residential to commercial use off of Jones Franklin Road in Raleigh. The property is next to A Preferred Women’s Health Center, which offers abortions.

At the original hearing in July, the council concluded the request was consistent with the future land use map, but it didn’t completely adhere to the Raleigh Comprehensive Plan.

Calla Hales, spokesperson for A Preferred Women’s Health Center, said she was surprised by the decision.

“A couple of reporters told me beforehand that they had heard that it was possible that they were going to not let the decision pass. And I just sat there and laughed at them and I was like, ‘No, I’m pretty sure they’re gonna let this pass,’” Hales said. And sure enough, when it didn’t pass, I started crying in the middle of city council.”

Tonya Baker Nelson, CEO of A Hand of Hope Pregnancy Centers, said she believes council ideologies played a part in the original decision.

“This is an election year and we think that probably had a lot of influence over their decision,” she said. “We definitely do have a constitutional right to be located in our property and to run our ministry as we see to it. So we’re definitely disappointed.”

The lawsuit, filed in mid-August, said the Raleigh City Council violated A Hand of Hope’s constitutional rights and made their decision based on ideological differences with the organization.

When reached, the Raleigh City Council would not comment because the case is still pending.

According to the minutes of the Raleigh City Council meeting when the original request was denied, Ed Bell, who lives next to the property in question, said he and a group of neighbors met and affirmed their support of the rezoning.

Hales said neither she nor A Preferred Women’s Health Center is trying to restrict A Hand of Hope’s constitutional rights. However, she said she was concerned with potential protesters violating privacy laws and threatening patient safety.

“It’s ideally, just for us, a safety issue and a safety concern,” she said. “I met Tonya when we were in City Council and you know, she seems like a wonderful woman, it’s just that I’m really concerned about my patients,.”

The lawsuit said the area outside of both properties has been a frequent site for protesters, but A Hand of Hope staffers do not participate.

Nelson said she is optimistic about the outcome of the lawsuit.

“I think the law is definitely on our side. Even the Raleigh future land use map, that’s definitely on our side,” she said. “So I think we have a very, very good chance of a favorable outcome.”

@kelseyleighmase

state@dailytarheel.com

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