Shut Down!

A construction worker noticed bullet-proof windows being installed in what was supposed to be an ordinary office building. He told his priest, and the resulting protests and prayer vigils led to a halt to a new abortion business planned by Planned Parenthood.

(photo: CNS Photo)

AURORA, Ill. — Planned Parenthood didn’t plan for this.

The nation’s largest abortion provider managed to build one of its largest clinics in a fast growing community outside Chicago under the cover of another name.

It was weeks away from opening when a construction worker noticed bullet-proof windows and security cameras being installed. He raised his suspicions with his priest, and the local pro-life movement launched a forceful campaign to keep the clinic closed. It was only then that city officials learned that Planned Parenthood was about to open an abortion business at the site.

Planned Parenthood had planned to open the facility Sept. 18, but on Sept. 20, U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle in Chicago ordered the clinic to remain closed, pending an investigation into the procedures used to get it built. Chicago Area Planned Parenthood President Steve Trombley said the organization would continue to pursue federal court injunctive relief.

Planned Parenthood originally applied for permits to build the $7.5 million, 22,000-square-foot clinic under the name of Gemini Office Development LLC. In various media outlets, Trombley admitted to the strategy, intended to avoid alerting pro-life activists. Through most of the summer, construction continued with a sign hanging nearby that read “Gemini Health Center.”

But in a Sept. 13 statement released to the press and sent to the Register, Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area (PP/CA) stated it “had publicly announced its intention to operate a medical facility providing a full range of reproductive services.”

It said the organization issued more than $8 million in tax-exempt bonds through the Illinois Development Finance Authority in May 2007, a process that required extensive documentation and notices published in newspapers. “In those disclosures, PP/CA disclosed that the named developer of the facility, Gemini Office Development, was affiliated with PP/CA,” the statement read.

In fact, to meet that Illinois Finance Authority requirement for tax exemption, Planned Parenthood put a small print classified ad in the Chicago Sun-Times in May 2007, which ran on p. 74, with one line buried in the middle of the small print notice stating the Gemini Office Development was a subsidiary of Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood answered Aurora city officials as recently as July 2007 that the intended tenant of the medical clinic was “unknown at this time.” But after word got out, Pro-life Action League Communications Director Eric Scheidler, an Aurora resident, helped form Families Against Planned Parenthood. Scheidler, the son of Pro-Life Action League founder Joseph Scheidler, started a 40-day, round-the-clock prayer vigil at the clinic site.

“Neighbors here feel blind-sided by this deception,” he said. “We were deprived of our freedom of choice.”

At a town meeting, Aurora City Council members heard from about 130 citizens who packed the chambers. Father Dan Hoehn, associate pastor at St. Mary Immaculate parish in neighboring Plainfield, was one of the speakers.

“The fact that an action is the result of a choice doesn’t make that action or choice good,” Father Hoehn said. “If a mother has a right to kill her unborn son or daughter, what about the father? What if he wants to kill his unborn child but the mother doesn’t? Where do you draw the line? Planned Parenthood claims there’s a demand for abortion in Aurora, but there’s a demand for pornography, too. That doesn’t oblige the council to take any action.”

Priests and bishops of the Illinois dioceses of Joliet and Rockford strengthened the swelling prayer vigil at the clinic site. A day-long Jericho Walk drew 1,200 people. Joliet Bishop Peter Sartain and retired Joliet Auxiliary Bishop Roger Kaffer celebrated a Mass for Life.

‘Looks Like Auschwitz’

Father Dan Deutsch, pastor of Holy Cross parish in nearby Batavia, and another priest came to the clinic site at midnight on Sept. 18, for a prayer vigil in the first moments of the day the clinic was supposed to be in business. With them was the Blessed Sacrament. According to an eyewitness, a car sped up to the group menacingly, and a man jumped out shouting hostilities.

“He was screaming about a woman’s choice, and the priests never flinched,” said Eileen Couri, an Elmhurst mother of four.

Rockford Bishop Thomas Doran took two dozen priests to the site to pray.

“The building looks like the low, dark buildings of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen, where human life was destroyed on a factory basis,” Bishop Doran said. “Just looking at it gives you that sense of hopelessness and helplessness that people who resort to abortion must feel. It will make its attempt, as Planned Parenthood always does, to limit the number of minorities and poor people coming into the world.”

Scheidler called the Aurora battle “the perfect storm,” with citizens of “a family-friendly, church-friendly” town having already closed a smaller abortion business earlier. “They’ve made tremendous sacrifices and already had a victory,” said Scheidler. “This time it’s Planned Parenthood, and they bring a lot of fire. They’re out to do more than abortions; they’re after the teens, as well, in their insidious work.”

“Community education is a key component of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area’s outreach work,” Planned Parenthood’s Trombley said. “The goal of all our programs is to prevent unintended pregnancy and disease by helping people develop healthy, responsible attitudes and behaviors regarding sexuality. … We need to teach that abstinence is best, but make sure students get information on prevention, diseases and responsibility.”

The temporary occupancy permit expired, but the city is not asking them to vacate just yet. “We’re looking at the city’s legal options,” explained Aurora city spokeswoman Carie Anne Ergo.

To which Father Hoehn replied: “If the city grants them the occupancy permit after their deceptions, what’s to prevent another person from applying for a dental clinic and opening a porn shop or a strip joint?”

The precedent set in Aurora is being watched nationally. After the Sept. 20 ruling denying Planned Parenthood’s request to open, Scheidler told national media: “This decision is a great victory for life and a great victory for choice, the freedom of choice for the people of Aurora to have a say in the destiny of their town.”

The city’s attorney, Lance Malina, pinned his case on that same point, arguing that the case was not about abortion, but the city’s right to regulate use of its land. Malina told Judge Norgle that Planned Parenthood misled the city, adding: “They came to this hearing with unclean hands.”

Norgle ruled that Planned Parenthood has not met the legal requirements for the clinic.

At a Sept. 25 Aurora City Council meeting, Eric Scheidler presented new information to support that ruling.

“Planned Parenthood was trying to avoid having to obtain a ‘special use permit’ as required by the city code,” Scheidler said in his remarks before the council. He cited the “Land Use Category 6630” for non-profit health-related facilities. “The laws of this city require Planned Parenthood to obtain a special use permit in order to occupy and use the building, a process requiring public notice in a local paper, public hearings, and written notice to nearby residents of the intended special use. They have done none of these things.”

Sheila Liaugminas

writes from Chicago.

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