Abortion protests get louder around West Raleigh clinic

ccampbell@newsobserver.comOctober 5, 2013 

— For more than a decade, a variety of anti-abortion groups has made a weekly pilgrimage to A Woman’s Choice, a West Raleigh abortion clinic.

Lately, though, they’ve been joined by some louder voices from out of town – and drawn complaints from neighboring businesses upset about the noise.

Neighbors and longtime protestors say a Baptist church from the Burlington area has been visiting the dead-end street surrounded by office buildings. But instead of holding signs and engaging in prayer, the newcomers bring megaphones and shout at women entering the clinic.

Haddon Clark is vice president at Sampson-Bladen Oil Company, which has its offices next door to A Woman’s Choice off Lake Boone Trail. He wrote to the Raleigh City Council in September asking them to intervene.

Up until now, he said, he’s had no problem with the clinic or the anti-abortion groups outside.

“My employees constantly complain about the noise, and it is embarrassing to have business associates visit our building and see 30 protestors chanting and preaching in front of our business,” he wrote.

The group initially brought an amplified sound system, but Raleigh police shut that down because the group’s permit didn’t allow amplification.

Now the group uses traditional megaphones, but the result is nearly as noisy, Clark wrote.

“Since the protestors have a permit and are not using electric amplification, they have the right to disturb my business,” he said. “This is a serious problem without a solution.”

City Councilman Bonner Gaylord contacted the city attorney, Tom McCormick, for advice; he said Raleigh leaders have few options.

“So long as the requirements of the picketing ordinance are complied with the demonstrators are free to espouse their position,” McCormick wrote in an email. “There are rules regarding the level of amplification the bullhorns may have so that might be worth checking to make sure they are in compliance. It is certainly unpleasant for a neighbor but it is a permissible activity.”

Clark isn’t the only one who disapproves of the new tactics. Other anti-abortion groups say the noisy newcomers are hurting their cause.

Forty Days For Life is one of them, and it kicked off a series of daily prayer vigils last week with a visit from Catholic Bishop Michael Burbidge. Participants hold signs and quietly pray for the women at the clinic. The event runs through Nov. 3, and organizers described the noisier protests as “absolutely obnoxious.”

Mike Leaser organizes the Respect Life Ministry at St. Andrew the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in Apex. Church members have stood outside A Woman’s Choice for years, praying quietly and offering counseling to the women seeking abortions.

“I really feel like when you’re there, you’re there in a loving nature,” Leaser said. “You’re there to pray, you’re able to help if needed.”

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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