Abortion Clinic Protesters Sue City of Charlotte for Enforcing Zoning Laws

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Abortion Clinic Protesters Sue City of Charlotte for Enforcing Zoning Laws

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Anti-choice protesters in Charlotte, North Carolina, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging the city is improperly enforcing zoning laws to curb their clinic protests.

Anti-choice activists on Friday filed a complaint in federal court alleging the City of Charlotte, North Carolina, is enforcing local ordinances in a discriminating manner that interferes with their rights to protest A Preferred Women’s Health Center, an area abortion clinic. 

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys from the Thomas More Law Center, a far-right conservative legal advocacy organization, on behalf of Cities4Life and its leader Daniel Parks. Parks is a familiar protest presence; both he, and the clinic in question, feature in the Rewire documentary Care in Chaos, which explores the chilling effect that anti-choice efforts can have on patient access to reproductive medical services. 

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs have encountered “unconstitutional censorship, intimidation, and harassment” from the city when it enforces local zoning ordinances. The plaintiffs allege that a city ordinance that prohibits people from placing signs within 11 feet of the edge of a road, alley, or other public rights of way violates their First Amendment speech rights because it is an improper content-based restriction. 

The plaintiffs claim the city improperly targeted them based on their religious beliefs and to chill their protest activities—which include placing large anti-abortion signs on the road and approaching cars—as exercises of religious belief that abortion is a sin. They claim the city is selectively enforcing the ordinance against their protests only.

Cities4Life and Parks have received a total of four citations under the ordinance.

The lawsuit also alleges that members of the city council are “working with pro-abortion groups to develop ways to interfere with and curtail Cities4Life’s ministry and free speech” such as by considering a parking ban outside of the clinic.

Attorneys for the City of Charlotte and its city council members have not yet responded to the lawsuit.