*Breaking News: The judge in the case, moments ago, denied Planned Parenthood's motion, delaying the opening of the clinic, thus delaying the provision of quality, affordable health care for the residents of Aurora. The judge denied the motion on the grounds that Planned Parenthood did not have enough evidence – though did allow that PP could re-file if they were able to gather more evidence of discrimination. The city of Aurora is continuing their investigation into whether or not Planned Parenthood's permit application was legitimate.
Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, has this to say about today's ruling:
"Today's ruling is a major disappointment and will only serve to encourage the campaign of harassment and intimidation being waged by anti-choice extremists against health care providers and their patients nationwide. Planned Parenthood will pursue every legal option to ensure the residents of Aurora get the health care services they need as quickly as possible…City leaders must stop bowing to political pressure…"
For more information, visit the Aurora Planned Parenthood blog!
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There is a real potential for violence in Aurora, Illinois, as city government officials debate the legitimacy of a building permit application used to erect a Planned Parenthood facility. Instead of using the often-volatile name of Planned Parenthood, the group used the name of a subsidiary, Gemini Development Corp. The city gave approval for the building last November, and the facility is currently operating under a temporary occupancy permit.
The medical complex is scheduled to open Tuesday, although a delay is considered likely while the city continues its investigation. The facility will offer reproductive and women's health care services — 10 percent of which is expected to be abortions. Currently, women in the area needing an abortion are forced to travel to the north side of Chicago, roughly two hours away by car.
Members of the Aurora City Council met Sept. 11 to discuss the ongoing investigation into the city's rules for building permits. Bill Wiet, chief of staff for Mayor Tom Weisner, said that if the investigation shows laws have been followed, "the city will be obligated to issue a final occupancy permit."
Emotions have escalated since anti-choice groups began protesting the facility in mid-August. Eric Scheidler, spokesman for Chicago's Pro-Life Action League and affiliated with Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood, has been heading up the protests against the clinic. On Aug. 30, he raised the stakes a notch by informing The Daily Herald that protesters were no longer interested in just the facility.
"If you're going to be involved in a business as shameful as Planned Parenthood… one of the consequences of that is that your neighbors will know you're working for an abortion clinic," he said.
When asked how he and the protesters will know who is employed by the clinic, he said, "We'll deal with that when (it opens)."
Such remarks prompted Michael Walsh of Aurora to submit a letter to the editor of the Beacon News.
"Is it true that Scheidler… believes it is acceptable to picket the homes of employees working for the new clinic?" he wrote. "What moral compass is this gentleman using that would lead him to this conclusion? These individuals are not breaking any laws, nor should they be subject to this type of harassment simply because their career choice is not in line with another person's views, or in this case those of the Pro-Life Action League."
While most protests and rallies have been conducted by anti-abortion activists, Planned Parenthood supporters also stood and held up signs and presented their thoughts at the latest council meeting.
For the most part, the protests and rallies have been peaceful. Both Planned Parenthood and the anti-abortion groups involved, however, say protests of this intensity and size haven't been seen since the 1990s, when Operation Rescue toured the nation, blocked access to clinics, and threatened clinic staff and patients.
It is yet to be seen if the call issued today by eastern Illinois religious leaders to spend Sunday as a day of prayer in support of Planned Parenthood will lessen or intensify the debate surrounding the facility.
"To deny women access to, and choice about, abortion, to contraceptives, to sexual education, is essentially to deny them their moral standing," said the Rev. Larry Greenfield, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago. "To deny somebody choice is contrary to what I believe to be the teachings of Jesus."