VACAVILLE, Calif. - A church-funded pregnancy clinic that counsels expectant mothers on alternatives to abortion is suing the owner of a medical office building for refusing to lease space to the organization.
Alpha Pregnancy Clinics of Northern California signed a lease in October to move its current Vacaville location in a small strip center behind a grocery store into the Nut Tree Road Medical Arts Center.
"We're bursting at the seams," executive director Diedre Eckle said. "But we'd also like to relocate to a place that's more medical."
Eckle said among the medical services offered by her clinic are no-cost ultrasounds.
"It's a piece of education that sometimes is the difference between them choosing life for their child or abortion," she said.
Five days before clinic staff was going to get the keys to suite 230 in the Medical Arts Center, the leasing agent returned the lease and uncashed rent check with a letter explaining the building's owner had decided the clinic "was not a good fit."
Eckle said neither the leasing agent nor the Orange County family trust that owns the building has offered a more detailed explanation.
"Something's up. We just don't know what," she said.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Solano County Superior Court by Pacific Justice Institute, claims discrimination based on the organization's actual or perceived religious practices and it seeks a court order forcing the landlord to honor the lease.
Pacific Justice Institute suggests the building owner's refusal to lease to Alpha Pregnancy Clinics is because of the clinic's would-be neighbor on the second floor, Planned Parenthood, whose pregnancy services include abortion.
"In other cities and states, Planned Parenthood has sought to shut down non-profits similar to Alpha that encourage women to consider alternatives to abortion," Pacific Justice Institute said in a written statement announcing the lawsuit.
Eckle said her organization has never been confrontational with pro-choice providers and respects a woman's decision if she chooses abortion.
Neither the leasing agent, Premier Commercial, nor Planned Parenthood responded immediately to a request for comment.