On September 18th, 2007 a new, state-of-the-art Planned Parenthood clinic was scheduled to open its doors to those seeking health services such as breast cancer screening, pap smears, contraceptives, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and abortion services. Controversy over abortion services, however, stalled the opening of this 22,000-square-foot, $7.5 million medical facility in the Chicago suburb of Aurora.1
In July, anti-choice protesters became aware of a permit request by Planned Parenthood for the physical structure and occupancy of land, under the name of a subsidiary, Gemini Office Development LLC.2 The construction site quickly became an anti-choice protest headquarters. The protesters, claiming deception and subterfuge on the part of Planned Parenthood, appealed to the city of Aurora, which agreed to halt the opening of the clinic in order to conduct an investigation of possible fraudulent behavior by the Planned Parenthood Federation. Planned Parenthood representatives explained that they made a conscious choice to keep the organization’s name off of the permit request to avoid alerting anti-choice protesters to the project, and that they took these precautions in part because of protests and obstacles they faced when trying to open a similar clinic in Austin, Texas in 2003.3
Planned Parenthood took the case court asking for an emergency occupancy permit. At the hearing, an attorney representing the city of Aurora, told the judge, “the case was not about abortion, but about the city’s right to regulate use of land” and that Planned Parenthood was “not straight in its dealings with the city.” The judge denied the permit, saying the issue warranted further investigation, forcing the clinic to remain closed and cancel 13 scheduled appointments for its opening day.
Elizabeth Toledo, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America said, “Aurora officials gave in under pressure from abortion protesters when they launched a fraud investigation into the approval process for the new facility.” She added, “It raises the question of how far local governments can and will go to allow politics to interfere with health care.”4
The new clinic ultimately opened its doors on October 2nd after a judge found Planned Parenthood had not committed any fraudulent behavior in applying for the building permit. During a small opening ceremony, Steve Trombley, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood’s Chicago affiliate said the organization has “no regrets about how we went about this process. We kept this quiet from our opponents, and we had good reason.”5
- James Kimberly, “Judge: Aurora Planned Parenthood Clinic Can Wait,” Chicago Tribune, 20 September 2007, accessed 25 September 2007, <http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chiauroraclinic_websep
- Vicki Sapporta, “National Abortion Federation Blog” 20 September 2007, accessed 26 September 2007, http://www.prochoice.org/blog/.
- Brady Swenson, “Real Time: Aurora Clinic Open,” RH Reality Check Blog, 2 October 2007, accessed 2 October 2007, http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2007/10/02/real-time-aurora-clinic-open.