Politics & Government

Could Charlotte’s midnight battle over abortion protests come to an end?

Charlotte’s abortion wars

In Charlotte’s abortion wars, both sides fight over milliseconds
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In Charlotte’s abortion wars, both sides fight over milliseconds

A decade-long midnight battle over abortion protests could come to an end.

For years, the anti-abortion group Cities4Life has protested in front of A Preferred Women’s Health of Charlotte, but the protests have become more intense in recent months, especially on Saturday mornings.

Both sides have fought intensely for years over securing a noise amplification permit, which allows someone to use a microphone or bullhorn. Shortly before midnight, both sides bombard the city’s email inbox with hundreds of requests for the noise permit. The city gives the permit to whichever group’s request is time-stamped closest to midnight – usually to the millisecond.

City Council member Julie Eiselt, who chairs the public safety committee, said she has asked city manager Marcus Jones to see if there is a better way to distribute noise permits. She said the current system, in which both sides send hundreds of emails daily, “doesn’t make sense.”

Eiselt said the noise permit review should be part of an overall review of how the city awards permits. First Ward neighbors are asking the city to make changes in awarding permits for tents and temporary parties after a Feb. 25 shooting before the CIAA championship basketball game.

She said the city might want to consider awarding noise permits as it does speaking slots during the public comment period at City Council meetings. People are limited to a certain number of slots per year. After that, they are allowed to speak only if there are open slots.

Groups like Queen City Clinic Escorts believe that Cities4Life uses special software to spam the city, helping them get the majority of permits. Kelli Jordan, a pro-abortion rights advocate, said her group has only received a handful of permits since April, despite applying for them daily.

While Cities4Life wants the permits to reach women going to clinic, Queen City Clinic Escorts and others want the permit to prevent Cities4Life from using it.

In addition to possibly changing how noise permits are awarded, the city is also reviewing the traffic flow on Latrobe Drive, where the clinic is located.

Cities4Life often parks an RV that offers ultrasounds in front of the clinic and encourages women to talk about options other than abortion.

Some pro-abortion rights groups say the RV and other parking vehicles have made it difficult for patients to access the clinic.

The Charlotte Department of Transportation said Tuesday it’s researching whether to place some “No Parking” signs in the area to ensure traffic can flow.

“(Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police) notified CDOT of recent pedestrian and traffic changes along Latrobe Dr.,” CDOT director Danny Pleasant said in an email. “CDOT is in the process of evaluating operations along the street to check for adequate sight distances at driveways. So far, CDOT has made no decision to change parking regulations in the vicinity.”

Daniel Parks, leader of Cities4Life, said the city is unfairly targeting his group for punishment.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs