Since last December, Planned Parenthood of Connecticut has been preparing to consolidate its offices and clinic into one location on 345 Whitney Ave., squarely in a residential area. But the potential for noisy anti-abortion protesters setting up camp on the block has concerned residents in the high-income neighborhood.
Now, the efforts of those residents to exclude the facility from the neighborhood have come to naught. Planned Parenthood of Connecticut purchased the Whitney Avenue building in October from the North Carolina-based Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society.
“I think pretty much every resident is supportive of Planned Parenthood as an organization and supportive of its mission, but some differ with them operating their clinic basically in our backyard,” said Jane Edelstein, a neighborhood resident and co-captain of Block Watch, the neighborhood’s community association.
But Judy Tabar, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, said the abortions constitute only 5 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities.
Planned Parenthood’s administrative offices are currently housed at 129 Whitney Ave., and its health facilities are at 50 Fitch St. Tabar said Planned Parenthood has been a presence in the Whitney Avenue neighborhood for more than 40 years. Offices and services used to be housed at the 129 Whitney Ave. location until overcrowding forced Planned Parenthood to open its second location on Fitch Street. The recently purchased building at 345 Whitney Ave. would combine the group’s administrative offices and health services, which include family planning, contraception services and an abortion clinic.
Resident Eugene Peck, who can see the back of the building from his Lawrence Street home, said residents have voiced complaints about the 345 Whitney Ave. building for the past two years. Last March, community residents, including art history professor Vincent Scully, complained about the building’s noisy air conditioning system, alleging that it violated a New Haven noise ordinance. Peck said parking was also more difficult since the building was being used as a non-residential complex.
Planned Parenthood met with worried neighborhood residents twice this past spring. Tabar said she understood the residents’ concerns and wanted to continue the dialogue with them.
Peck once lived near another abortion clinic in Brookline, Mass., that was later the site of a shooting by an anti-abortion protester. Peck has a 6-year-old daughter, and he worries about what she might see near the clinic.
“How do you explain to [children] the bloody fetuses on the signs up around the building you walk by every day?” Peck said.
Tabar said such protesting at the Fitch Street location is minimal, with one to three protesters one morning a week on average.
Edelstein said concerned residents are discussing how Planned Parenthood could alleviate potential problems caused by the move. She would not comment on the specifics of the proposals pending further discussions with Planned Parenthood.
But she and Tabar agreed that the relationship between the neighborhood and Planned Parenthood should be an amiable one.
“We’re very interested in being good neighbors,” Tabar said.