The Raleigh City Council unanimously voted to give $30,000 to a faith-based health clinic last week, though several council members later said they were unaware that the clinic lists as partners an anti-abortion-rights organization and a church that promotes conversion therapy for LGBTQ people.

Some council members say they regret the decision, though others point out that the clinic provides vital health care services to low-income refugees and immigrants.

At last Tuesday’s council meeting, Kay Crowder asked the council Tuesday to give $30,000 from the city’s contingency fund to NeighborHealth, a nonprofit clinic founded in 2018 in Northwest Raleigh. According to the clinic’s website, its mission is to “[serve] Christ by loving our neighbors through the practice of excellent, compassionate and accessible health care.”

NeighborHealth’s website lists among its partners Gateway Pregnancy Center, an anti-abortion-rights nonprofit on Hillsborough Street whose website warns women about the alleged physical, psychological, emotional, and “spiritual” consequences of abortion, and asks patients to consider: “How does God see your unborn child?”

NeighborHealth also lists as a partner Church of the Apostles, a Raleigh ministry that invites congregants to connect with the program Beyond Imagination, which aims to “bring God’s healing and redemptive power to those who struggle with undesired homosexuality.”

So-called conversion therapy has been banned for minors in several states and is strongly opposed by the American Psychiatric Association, which says the practice creates “a significant risk of harm.”  

Crowder said at the council meeting that NeighborHealth “takes care of an underserved community,” including those without insurance. The group was late to the city’s grant application process, she explained, so she wanted to give it leftover funds from the contingency fund.

Crowder told the INDY Thursday that she’d be “unavailable the rest of this week with Mother’s Day family obligations.” Crowder could not be reached on Monday. 

NeighborHealth CEO Sue Ellen Thompson says the clinic has seen seventeen hundred patients since it opened last year, 70 percent of whom are not insured. For the uninsured, care is provided on an income-based sliding scale, but that money doesn’t fully cover the clinic’s expenses, so it has to rely on donations and government funding to make up the difference.

Reproductive care accounts for less than 10 percent of the clinic’s services, Thompson says.

Asked about the clinic’s approach to abortion and conversion therapy, Thompson says NeighborHealth “is not political.” It does not refer patients to Gateway or give that center money, she says. Instead, Gateway refers patients to NeighborHealth.

Thompson told the INDY that the clinic does provide information on abortion, but she adds: “We would not promote abortion. We’re not gonna tell women they should get an abortion. But they have their right to choose, so we’re seeing them from a medical perspective.”

Doug Briggs, the clinic’s head physician, says that he practiced medicine in China for over two decades, where he saw women who were forced to have abortions and then given the aborted fetus in a plastic bag. 

While he tells patients that abortion is an option, he says, “Generally, I would encourage them to keep their baby.”

He also tells them about the “unmeasurable” consequences of abortion, which he says include psychological suffering, trauma, grief, suicidal thoughts, and spiritual issues. There are “a lot of women who had had abortions who are suffering psychologically,” he says, so he also provides post-abortion counseling.

Studies claiming that women experience negative mental health effects following an abortion have been “critically refuted,” according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Research has found that women who have abortions do not experience more depression or anxiety than those who carry their pregnancies to term.

NeighborHealth hasn’t dealt with abortion a lot, at least not yet. Briggs says he’s only consulted with one patient who was pregnant and undecided on whether to have the baby. He never consulted with her again, but he believes she was leaning toward carrying the pregnancy to term. 

Asked about NeighborHealth’s association with Church of the Apostles, Thompson says her brother was gay and died of AIDS in 1992. 

“We are in no way homophobic,” she says.

Council members Stef Mendell, Corey Branch, and Nicole Stewart say they were unaware of NeighborHealth’s connections when they voted to fund the clinic. 

Mendell says that, while the vote was a mistake, she thinks the clinic should keep the money because it provides affordable health care for uninsured patients, including immigrants.

Branch says he’s looking into the matter. 

“I’m probably leaning towards [reversing] it,” he says. “But I need to have an in-depth conversation with Councilor Crowder.”

This isn’t the first time the city has funded faith-based organizations. It’s given $737,000 to Catholic Charities since 2007, and it spent $3.1 million on Oak City Cares, a homeless outreach center on which the Catholic Diocese partnered. 

Update: On Tuesday, after the INDY went to press, Crowder announced that she would seek to rescind the grant.  

Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss at This story has been updated. 

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3 replies on “Why Did Raleigh Give $30K to a Faith-Based Clinic With Ties to Anti-Choice and Pro-LGBTQ-Conversion Groups?”

  1. How was this even a consideration? The description “faith based” should have been all they needed to know to decline the grant. The First Amendment prohibits giving public funds to religious organizations.

  2. This happens all the time with Catholic and Muslim nonprofits, hospitals and universities. What exactly is the difference here? Of course they are personally pro-life but also have to respect and abide by the patient’s choice. The connection to conversion therapy is a stretch. According to their website they have 23 partners, including six different churches of various backgrounds, homeless shelters, and the YMCA. So because one of these 23 parters has a link on their own website for Beyond Imagination, it’s implied that this community health center is complicit as well? I’m glad they were awarded this grant. This article states that they’ve seen 1,190 uninsured patients. That’s an amazing thing.

  3. Stef Mendell’s rationale for letting the dund8nf stand is plumb stupid. No matter how good their work may be, thwre are plenty of other health-care-related non-profits that could use that same money to do the same amount of good, WITHOUT the pseudo-religious bigotry attached.

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