The New Epicenter of the Abortion Fight

By Christine Cupaiuolo — September 20, 2007

Planned Parenthood experienced a setback today in trying to get its new health clinic opened in Aurora, Ill. U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle denied the organization’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have allowed it to open while the city reviews the permit applications, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Planned Parenthood requested the legal intervention last week after being notified that city officials would not allow it to open the clinic at Oakhurst Drive and New York Street until the city completed its investigations into whether Planned Parenthood deceived officials in applying for a permit. The clinic had been scheduled to open Tuesday.

After hearing two hours of arguments in a packed courtroom, Norgle denied the injunction request, saying Planned Parenthood had not met the legal requirements.

“There is a delay, but the delay itself at this point is not of constitutional magnitude” Norgle said. “That could change. By no means is this case over.”

Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Chicago area Planned Parenthood, said outside court that the agency will continue to press its original case.

“At this point it is safe to assume we don’t know when we’ll be able to open,” Trombley said. “We are confident that we did everything legally in this case. We are confident that we will be able to open the doors, it’s just a question of when.”

Eric Scheidler, spokesman for Pro-Life Action League, called the judge’s ruling “a victory for life and a victory for choice.

“It’s the choice for the city of Aurora to choose to stand for their own destiny,” Scheidler said.

Nice attempt to reframe “choice,” here, eh?

Let’s look at who’s really being left without a choice. The application for a medical facility was filed under Gemini Office Development LLC so Planned Parenthood — and contractors hired to build the facility — could avoid daily protests by anti-abortion activists.

Today in court, Planned Parenthood attorney Christopher Wilson said the clinic just wanted equal treatment: “We ask that we be treated like any other medical facility, an eye-care clinic, a foot-care clinic, a dermatology clinic, and be allowed to open for business.”

Of course, a medical center that provides abortions is not just another medical facility in the eyes of the religious right, and since Planned Parenthood’s involvement came to light in July, protesters have become a regular fixture in Aurora.

The clinic will provide a full array of medical services, including breast exams and pap tests, to women in a rapidly growing part of the state that is currently underserved.

“Unfortunately today’s ruling means that, yet again, we will have to reschedule appointments for our patients,” said Planned Parenthood president and CEO, Steve Trombley, in a statement. “Our main concern is that every day our health center is not open, more women go without pap tests, birth control supplies and breast exams. These are critical services that this community has been lacking and that we will provide.”

Eric Zorn, a popular Chicago Tribune columnist, wrote a great defense of Planned Parenthood’s tactics:

The foes not only picket construction sites, but they also send picketers out to harass subcontractors at their homes and businesses, try to spread alarm and disgust in the immediate neighborhoods and attempt to browbeat civic officials into implementing just the sort of craven, politically motivated delays we’re now seeing in Aurora.

Then when Planned Parenthood is revealed to have tried to prevent such pressure tactics by using a little creative subterfuge, the opponents of abortion-rights carry on indignantly, as though the deceptions were an effort to skirt the law.

In fact, the deceptions are an effort by Planned Parenthood to be sure the law is followed — to be sure their plans and proposals are considered as though they came from an organization engaged in lawful activity. Which, in fact, they do.

But in order to get that sort of fair treatment, bitter experience tells them they have to skirt the notice of those in the community who feel compelled to try to impose on everyone their opposition to abortion.

Read the rest here — and the couple of hundred comments that follow. The post includes a Planned Parenthood fact sheet that demonstrates the region’s need for STI testing and treatment, and sexuality education and access to health care for teens.

Plus: A Trib story earlier this week described Aurora, a city of 170,000 as “a pivotal battleground on the national stage.”

“Aurora has shown the pro-life community that given the right set of circumstances, they can get thousands of people out, and now everyone wants to do that,” said American Life League Vice President Jim Sedlak.

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