Orlando Officials Have Twice Refused To Give The Business Permission To Open Downtown
By Dan Tracy of The Sentinel Staff
A Maryland doctor went to U.S. District Court in Orlando on Thursday, trying to force the city to approve a practice near downtown where he would perform abortions.
Dr. James Pendergraft, rebuffed twice by Orlando in attempts to open a business, also is seeking money from the city, claiming he is losing more than $35,000 a week in income and expenses.
“There’s no reason his office shouldn’t be opened,” his spokeswoman, Marti Mackenzie, said Thursday.
Assistant City Attorney Jean Roush-Burnett would not discuss the suit, saying, “We are reviewing it and will make the appropriate response at the appropriate time.”
Pendergraft, 38, contends the city has violated his constitutional right to due process by refusing to give him an occupational license.
Last month, the city issued, then revoked, a permit allowing Pendergraft to open his business among a cluster of medical offices and residences at 1103 Lucerne Terrace.
Pendergraft, who had intended to open Dec. 1, won the short-lived acceptance by changing the way he described his enterprise from a “clinic” to an “office.” That allowed him to meet city zoning requirements.
Clinics, city rules say, offer procedures where patients might require several hours of recovery, as opposed to offices, where clients leave within 60 minutes.
But the city reversed itself partly at the urging of an abortion opponent who produced literature saying women terminating a second-trimester pregnancy usually require more than an hour to recuperate.
Mackenzie dismissed that information as “biased.” Pendergraft, she said, previously provided the city five affidavits from two doctors and three clinic managers saying women undergoing an abortion typically recover within 30 minutes, or well within Orlando’s limit.
Orlando first blocked Pendergraft, an obstetrician and gynecologist, from opening three months ago by denying him a conditional use permit.
He needed that document because he sought to open what he said was a clinic in an area just south of City Hall reserved for medical offices and homes.
In October, Pendergraft bought a colonial-style brick building on Lucerne Terrace for $250,000, according to Orange County property records.
Excluding Pendergraft’s proposal, greater Orlando has three abortion clinics.