Hundreds of Garland residents and business owners have signed a petition urging the city to prevent a women’s health clinic from opening a location on the downtown square.
The Source, which is owned by the Christian nonprofit Involved For Life, has signed a tentative contract with the owners of the property at 500 Main St. but is considering other locations, city council member Deborah Morris told The Dallas Morning News.
And even if the clinic were to choose the site on the corner of the square that used to be Garland Furniture, the property does not have enough parking spaces to comply with city code, meaning it would have to ask the council for an exemption.
“Such a request would face a steep challenge,” Morris wrote in an email.
Parking is only one of the issues Garland business owners and residents have with The Source coming to the square. The clinic, which has locations in downtown Dallas, DeSoto and other parts of Texas, provides free or low-cost services for women with sexually transmitted diseases or unintended pregnancies, according to its website.
It does not perform abortions or refer women to centers that provide them, instead offering education on “maintaining a healthy sexuality, pre-abortion alternatives, post-abortion recovery,” and other topics.
The Garland Downtown Business Association and others say their opposition to the clinic opening on the square has little to do with the services it provides.
“Every member of the GDBA board is in clear and direct opposition to this use of the space,” an open letter with the petition states.
Aside from inadequate parking, it says the key concerns are:
- A medical clinic does not fit the theme of the square, which “should be for retail, restaurants, and entertainment.”
- The type of traffic a clinic might bring is “counterproductive to our goals downtown.”
- As a nonprofit, the clinic would not pay property taxes and is a missed opportunity to use downtown real estate to generate tax money for the city.
Putting a nonprofit medical facility on the corner of the square doesn’t make sense economically, business owners and residents have said, particularly because the city is investing an estimated $20 million to revitalize downtown Garland.
“Going to spend all this taxpayer money for a square redesign and do this? Makes no sense,” one resident wrote on the petition.
Karin Wiseman and Trayc Claybrook, who operate the Art Lounge and two separate stores in the space, said the clinic and similar businesses would be a poor fit for what the community wants to accomplish on the square.
“We have live music almost every night. We are an entertainment district. … It’s a family gathering, shopping, drinking, enjoying good vibes kind of area,” Wiseman said. “Then to know the major corner there is testing for STDs and encouraging girls to continue unwanted pregnancies … yeah, it would change things.”
She and Claybrook said downtown business owners don’t mind the clinic coming to town, but they don’t want it to interfere with the atmosphere they have tried to create.
“We haven’t insulted them in any way because there’s no reason to do that,” Claybrook said. “They’re a fine establishment — just not on that corner.”
The petition has caused some confusion over what the city can and cannot do, council member Morris said, and misinformation has circulated about the clinic. Some online commenters thought that The Source was an abortion clinic, while others were upset that a “morality clinic,” that provides inaccurate medical information and manipulates women into keeping unwanted pregnancies was trying to open on the square.
Carolyn Cline, Involved for Life executive director and CEO of The Source North Texas, said abortion counseling is only one of the services provided, and it is “absolutely done according to the state of Texas,” and its handbook A Woman’s Right to Know. Medical associations, Planned Parenthood and other groups have said the handbook contains claims that are not medically accurate, such as a link between breast cancer rates and abortion.
The Source clinics also offer pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, gynecological appointments, abortion pill reversal, cancer screenings and contraception, which many faith-based centers do not provide.
Cline said she was “not at liberty” to tell The News what other Garland locations The Source is considering but said the clinic will soon decide.
”Time will tell where it goes from here,” Morris wrote in a Facebook post.