Stanton Healthcare and Planned Parenthood, which are facing off in a lawsuit, could be neighbors in Meridian by early next year.

Stanton aims to break ground on a new Meridian wellness center in May, pending city permit approval, said founder and CEO Brandi Swindell.

The 7,000-square-foot building would be at 2218 E. Franklin Road, next to Planned Parenthood. Stanton owned two parcels at the site and sold one to a church, Swindell said in December.

Stanton’s mission is to end abortion and provide free services to women facing unexpected pregnancies. The organization has opened pregnancy crisis centers next to Planned Parenthood’s other two Idaho clinics in Boise and Twin Falls.

“We have had issues with protesters, and we have had issues with harassment of staff,” regional Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Katie Rogers said. “And because of that, we have decided to challenge them legally.”

The regional Planned Parenthood sued Stanton Healthcare in November, claiming Stanton illegally operated its mobile services van in the shared Meridian parking lot and intimidated Planned Parenthood’s staff and patients.

Swindell has called the lawsuit’s claims false and slanderous.

Construction of the new Meridian clinic could be complete in as little as eight months, she said. Stanton has raised $250,000 of the $1.4 million construction budget. The building’s design includes exam and counseling rooms, a laboratory, a wellness room for massages and other therapies, and a boutique with infant and maternity clothing.

“It’s going to be set up and designed to offer holistic women’s health care, as well as our specific care to reach out to women facing unexpected pregnancies,” Swindell said.

Stanton provides free ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, sexually transmitted infection testing, supplies for new mothers and referrals to health care providers for medical services.

Planned Parenthood’s services include access to birth control, exams for men and women, abortions, vaccinations and treatments for infections and sexually transmitted diseases.

LAWSUIT BACKGROUND

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands filed the lawsuit against Generation Life, a nonprofit doing business as Stanton Healthcare, on Nov. 22 in 4th Judicial District Court.

Stanton had been operating its mobile services van in the shared parking lot near its property in Meridian.

The lawsuit claims people who appeared to be invited by Stanton harassed Planned Parenthood patients and employees — either by blocking them from getting out of their cars, photographing their license plates, protesting, or directing patients away from Planned Parenthood and toward Stanton’s bus.

The business park rules don’t allow that type of conduct or the operation of the bus in the common area, according to the lawsuit.

Planned Parenthood is asking the court to order Stanton Healthcare to stop using the common area to operate its bus, promote its services, and approach, harass or intimidate staff, patients and associates. Planned Parenthood is also seeking reimbursement of legal fees.

“They have repeatedly had protesters, Stanton Healthcare protesters, outside of our clinic,” Rogers told the Meridian Press in December. “We felt the need to take action...to stop Stanton’s obstructionist agenda.”

Stanton officials said the claims in the lawsuit are false.

“Stanton has always been committed to reaching women...without any kind of manipulation, intimidation or coercion,” said Stanton founding board member, Rev. Patrick Mahoney of Washington, D.C.

A trial is set for March 2018, but Stanton’s legal team plans to file a motion to have the case dismissed, said Stanton’s attorney, Catherine Glenn Foster with Sound Legal Group in Washington, D.C.

“We believe it is a slam dunk,” she said. “It’s really something that should never have been brought.”

If anyone is protesting or harassing Planned Parenthood employees or patients, they are not associated with Stanton, Glenn Foster said.

“If you want to contest their presence there, go to them,” she said. “There’s nothing that we as Stanton can do to help on that front because we have no control, we’re not inviting them.”

In regards to the mobile clinic, Stanton has a right to operate the bus in the parking lot near its Meridian property, Glenn Foster said. Stanton winterized the bus over the cold months and is now operating it out in other parts of the community, she said.

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