A pregnancy center in Raleigh, North Carolina, has cleared its biggest hurdle in beginning operations next to an abortion facility, reaching a settlement agreement with the city. Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center has been battling the city’s zoning commission since 2016 for permission to operate next door to A Preferred Women’s Health Center, which commits abortions.
The saga began in 2015 when Hand of Hope purchased a facility right beside the state’s second-largest abortion facility. Although the property was in a residential zone, numerous other businesses along the street – including the abortion facility – had successfully petitioned the city to rezone to allow operations. Hand of Hope also requested rezoning and was initially approved by several city departments before its final hearing before the Raleigh City Council. At that meeting in July 2016, the city unanimously denied its rezoning application.
In response, Hand of Hope filed a federal lawsuit against the city. In its suit, Hand of Hope argued that the city was denying its First Amendment rights to get a message out to a certain audience and violating its equal protection rights under the Constitution. City guidelines would allow churches, civic clubs, and other groups to locate on the property, so the pregnancy center argued for those same rights.
Ultimately, the pregnancy resource center was allowed to open in September 2017, but was barred from offering STD testing or ultrasound services. An ultrasound machine is a crucial tool for pregnancy centers that want to provide help to women considering abortion.
NC Family Council reports that under the terms of the recent settlement agreement, Hand of Hope will now be able to operate its facility in full, offering free ultrasounds, abortion pill reversal information and medication, STD and pregnancy tests, and other education.
“More times than I can count, I was intimidated along the way,” said Hand of Hope’s founder and CEO, Tonya Baker Nelson. “But I never wanted to quit, because at the end of the day, if that was my daughter walking into that abortion clinic, I’d want somebody who’s not going to give up the fight for her.”
According to NC Family Council, the settlement still needs to be approved before the Board of Adjustment before the entire litigation is resolved. Still, Nelson remained optimistic, sharing the good news with her followers on Facebook. “We do still have a few large hurdles to cross and ‘moving in tomorrow’ is not an option; but the finish line is FINALLY within eyesight! We are praying for a few months timeline,” she wrote.
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