City considers changes outside Charlotte abortion clinic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte City Council is considering making changes outside Preferred Women's Health Clinic on Latrobe Drive.

The clinic is frequently targeted by protesters because it offers abortion services. On Saturdays, it is common for more than 100 protesters to demonstrate on clinic grounds.

"This issue is a public safety issue," Calla Hales, administrator of the clinic, said. "Going to receive abortion care on a Saturday is like driving through a circus."

Mayor Jennifer Roberts said before she leaves office, it is one of her top priorities to bring changes to Latrobe Drive.

The council is asking the city manager to study three potential changes: a buffer zone, a new sign or noise ordinance and no parking on the street.

City Attorney Bob Hagemann cautioned council members that any action they take will likely result in a lawsuit.

Roberts said that's a fight worth having because the safety of patients and protesters is at risk.

"There are things people will sue over that may not have a basis," she said. "We cannot prevent every lawsuit."

Congressional candidate Mark Harris has protested outside the clinic twice. He said the protesters are peaceful and the protesters don't harass patients.

He also predicts a lawsuit if the council takes any action

"I would hope the City Council and the mayor would stop short before they did something that drastic and that dramatic," he said. "The protesters pray, they sing, they worship and it is not a confrontational style at all."

The council will receive an update on the feasibility of the proposed changes during November's community safety committee meeting.