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Battle over abortion rights moves to Illinois

Published Sep 30, 2007 10:19 PM

Aurora, Ill., has become the latest battleground in the struggle for abortion rights. Located 42 miles southwest of Chicago, the city has been besieged by anti-choice protesters since it became known that Planned Parenthood was building a new, state-of-the-art clinic there for women’s health care. The 22,000-square-foot clinic will provide a full range of women’s medical services, including cancer screening, contraception and abortion.

In July, anti-choice zealots found out that the clinic was under construction and set to open in September. They immediately began holding mass protests and “pray-ins” at the construction site.

In a shameful act of deference to anti-choice protesters, city officials have asked the county prosecutor to review the clinic’s permits for fraud and other criminal violations. In August, the anti-woman forces had jammed a City Council meeting at which Aurora officials conceded and ordered an investigation of the permit process for the new facility.

Planned Parenthood applied for and was granted construction and other required permits under the subsidiary name of Gemini Office Development, a completely legal business maneuver. Aurora city leaders have knuckled under to the right wing, which has stated that Planned Parenthood was deceitful and misleading about the nature of the facility under construction.

Apparently, women’s right to access a full range of health-care services is not a concern of city officials.

On Sept. 20, Federal Judge Charles Norgle denied a motion by Planned Parenthood to lift an injunction preventing the new clinic from opening to the public. Aurora officials had granted a temporary occupancy permit in August.

Planned Parenthood attorney Christopher Wilson told Norgle that if the new facility had housed a foot clinic, Aurora officials would not be doing an in-depth review. In court, Wilson charged that city officials are expressing concern about how the medical clinic was approved only because of pressure from anti-choice groups.

“We are here because we are being denied equal protection under the law,” Wilson said.

Cecile Richards, national president of Planned Parenthood, has called Aurora the new “ground zero” in the struggle for reproductive rights.

“We are facing no less than the most emboldened protest by the most radical anti-choice people I’ve ever encountered,” Richards wrote in a recent mass e-mail asking for support for the group’s Chicago affiliate, which oversees the Aurora clinic.

Debbie Johnson, a leader of the Detroit Action Network For Reproductive Rights, told Workers World: “What is really needed in this situation is a mass outpouring of pro-choice, pro-women’s rights activists. Anti-choicers are a clear minority, as every poll has shown that a majority of people in the United States supports women’s right to choose. A mass demonstration by pro-choice advocates would show the city of Aurora that their tactics to intimidate Planned Parenthood will be resisted. Every woman in that area of Illinois should have the right to access the many services the new clinic will provide.”