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City Council Debates Noise Ordinance Changes That Would Impact Abortion Clinic

Steve Harrison/WFAE
Opponents of abortion rights attended Monday's City Council meeting. The city is considering changing its noise ordinance, which could make protesting outside an abortion clinic on Latrobe Drive more difficult.

The Charlotte City Council Monday night discussed proposed changes to the city's noise ordinance.

The changes would create noise buffers and limits around schools, houses of worship and health care facilities.

The city is considering the changes in part to address anti-abortion rights protesters who frequently gather outside A Preferred Women's Health Center on Latrobe Drive. Employees of the clinic, as well as abortion rights supporters, say the protesters are disruptive.

The changes would prohibit amplified sound within 200 feet of those facilities, and the city said other municipalties - such as Atlanta and Dallas - have similar ordinances.

Council member Ed Driggs said the situation outside the clinic on Latrobe Drive is "intrusive" and "causes distress." But he questioned whether the city's proposed changes are the right way to address the problem.

"I don't believe two wrongs make a right," Driggs said. "Basically, there is a kind of false pretense here. This came out about concerns about Latrobe. Our attempts in the past to deal with Latrobe ran into obstacles. And what we see here is pretty apparently an effort to circumvent those obstacles."

The current noise ordiannce has a civil penalty that is $100 for each violation. The city is considering increasing that to $1,000 after a third citation.

The proposal would also allow CMPD to determine if a noise is "unreasonably loud."

Council members did not vote on the ordinance. About three-dozen opponents of the changes - many of them anti-abortion rights protesters - sat in the meeting. They held signs saying, "Free Speech is Not Noise."

Council could vote on the changes June 24.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.