Foes pack council meeting to protest Planned Parenthood relocation

More than 200 anti-abortion activists packed the Port St. Lucie City Council Chambers to protest the relocation of Planned Parenthood to a medical office near St. Lucie Medical Center from a strip mall in Stuart.

Planned Parenthood plans to reopen its health center on Jan. 22 at 1696 SE Hillmoor Drive, Port St. Lucie, after closing its facility at 1322 NW Federal Hwy., Emerald Plaza, on Jan. 14, the group’s website says.

The health center offers abortion services, birth control, HIV testing, morning-after pill emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and services, STD testing and treatment, and other health care.

Several speakers at the Nov. 25 City Council meeting emotionally decried abortion and said their anti-abortion protests would move to Port St. Lucie with the Planned Parenthood clinic.

“You’ve seen the protesters holding signs along U.S. 1 near the mall,” said Sue Chess, executive director of Care Net Pregnancy Services of the Treasure Coast. “Those protesters will now be across from Port St. Lucie hospital.”

But Mayor Greg Oravec said the council lacked the authority to stop Planned Parenthood from moving its health center into a medical office building.

“As a result of the laws in effect in Port St. Lucie and the state and the country, the use will not even come to the City Council for approval,” Oravec told the crowd.

“It is a medical use going into a medical office building and the only thing that is required is an occupancy and zoning form and the paying of an occupational tax,” Oravec said. “So, there is no decision-making that will be done by the City Council on this item. It’s all ministerial.”

“We’re going to listen, but we’re not going to be in a position to help or directly intervene,” Oravec said. “We cannot provide you with the outcome so many people have signed up to ask for.”

Oravec encouraged the crowd to lobby their federal and state lawmakers to change the laws regarding abortion.

Planned Parenthood did not respond to telephone and email messages inquiring about the reasons for moving the Treasure Coast office and the reaction to the Nov. 25 protest.

Willow Sanders, a city resident, told the council the opposition to Planned Parenthood would continue.

“While I’m disheartened to hear of the council’s inability to stop Planned Parenthood,” Sanders said, “I do stand by the fact many communities have ousted Planned Parenthood and we will stand strong until that happens in ours.”

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