From the Chicago Tribune, today (read entire story on page 2):
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… Seldom do opponents and supporters of abortion rights agree across one of the nation’s most contentious political divides. But as Planned Parenthood fights to open a 22,000-square-foot clinic in Aurora this week, both sides concur that this city of 170,000 is a pivotal battleground on the national stage.
“It is playing out very big across the country,” said American Life League Vice President Jim Sedlak, who travels extensively, seeking ways to shut down abortion providers. “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.”…
In a recent e-mail to supporters, Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president, highlighted the struggle in Aurora.
“Something amazing is happening. Right now, this very moment,” Richards wrote. “Ground zero in the fight for women’s access to reproductive health care just landed in a town in the middle of America.”…
Eric Scheidler, an Aurora resident and spokesman for the Pro-Life Action League, says he has been inundated with calls for advice from allies in Georgia, Florida, New York, Oregon and throughout the Midwest.
“I’ve never seen an issue that galvanized the pro-life community like this,” Scheidler said. “Trying to get even 40 people to get out to an abortion picket is like pulling teeth. I’m getting 100, 200, 300 people, day after day.”…

[Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune]


www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-clinic_websep18,0,4319750.story?coll=chi_tab01_layout
Chicago Tribune
Abortion fight’s epicenter is Aurora
Both sides use new clinic to rally causes
By Russell Working and James Kimberly
11:19 PM CDT, September 17, 2007
When Planned Parenthood announced in August that it soon would break ground on a $4.2 million clinic in Denver, a group called Colorado Right to Life looked to Illinois for inspiration in fighting the arrival of an abortion provider.
And when the national head of Planned Parenthood sought to drum up support in a recent e-mail, she called the group’s Aurora clinic “ground zero in the fight for women’s access to reproductive health care.”
Seldom do opponents and supporters of abortion rights agree across one of the nation’s most contentious political divides. But as Planned Parenthood fights to open a 22,000-square-foot clinic in Aurora this week, both sides concur that this city of 170,000 is a pivotal battleground on the national stage.
“It is playing out very big across the country,” said American Life League Vice President Jim Sedlak, who travels extensively, seeking ways to shut down abortion providers. “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.”
Aurora police said 600 people protested outside the Aurora clinic Saturday, and a month ago a protest at the site drew more than 1,000. The numbers also have caught the attention of those who support abortion rights.
In a recent e-mail to supporters, Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president, highlighted the struggle in Aurora.
“Something amazing is happening. Right now, this very moment,” Richards wrote. “Ground zero in the fight for women’s access to reproductive health care just landed in a town in the middle of America.”
Such clinics are more commonly found in urban areas, but, Richards said, Planned Parenthood is opening more suburban locations, or health centers, where it recognizes a need for services.
Eric Scheidler, an Aurora resident and spokesman for the Pro-Life Action League, says he has been inundated with calls for advice from allies in Georgia, Florida, New York, Oregon and throughout the Midwest.
“I’ve never seen an issue that galvanized the pro-life community like this,” Scheidler said. “Trying to get even 40 people to get out to an abortion picket is like pulling teeth. I’m getting 100, 200, 300 people, day after day.”
On Monday, a federal judge put the clinic’s scheduled opening on hold.
Planned Parenthood officials had asked U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle to issue a court order allowing the clinic to open Tuesday as planned. Aurora officials have declined to grant Planned Parenthood an occupancy permit, saying they need time to investigate how the agency obtained construction permits.
Planned Parenthood applied for permits to build a medical office building under the name of a subsidiary, Gemini Office Development LLC. Planned Parenthood insists Gemini had been truthful when it told city officials the office tenant was unknown because at that time it had not been decided which Planned Parenthood entity would occupy the building.
Aurora has appointed an independent attorney to investigate whether any local laws were broken. A temporary occupancy certificate the city issued on Aug. 16 expired Monday.
Planned Parenthood attorney Christopher Wilson said the city was putting extra and unconstitutional hurdles in the clinic’s path.
“Once the political firestorm started we were singled out for differential treatment,” Wilson argued Monday. “There simply is no other reason.”
Aurora attorney Lance Malina said the city just wants time to complete its investigation.
Norgle continued the case until Thursday to give both sides time to present more evidence. Planned Parenthood Chicago Area president Steve Trombley said the clinic would open Friday morning if Norgle rules in its favor.
In the meantime, Trombley said Planned Parenthood has been contacting women who had scheduled appointments for Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and either arranging for them to visit another Planned Parenthood clinic in the area or rescheduling the appointment. Trombley said no abortion procedures were scheduled for Tuesday but some were scheduled for later in the week.
“These are people who need to get health care and need to get health care in a timely manner. We’re doing everything we can to get open so we can provide services for them,” Trombley said.
Opponents agree that Planned Parenthood’s secrecy in building the clinic helped fuel anger.
Planned Parenthood’s Richards said “it has been a while” since there were anti-abortion protests of the scale seen recently in Aurora.
“All of us are fearful this is going back to the bad old days where women really were harassed going to health-care clinics. It’s not a good sign,” Richards said.
In Denver, abortion opponents took inspiration from the broad-ranging tactics of the Aurora movement, said Rev. Bob Enyart, spokesman for Colorado Right to Life.
The Denver clinic initially planned its clinic under another company’s name but announced in August that it would open the clinic next year. The announcement had nothing to do with the situation in Aurora, said Leslie Durgin, a Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains senior vice president.
“We decided that for our community, which is very different from Aurora, Ill., we’d pursue a different strategy and that was tell the community what we’re doing,” Durgin said.
The Denver organizers, seeking to initiate a movement similar to Aurora’s, pulled together a group of pastors who brainstormed ways to resist the clinic.
“It was the momentum, the encouragement, from Aurora, Ill., rising up in anger and doing something,” Enyart said.
He said the group would focus on protesting at the homes of construction executives planning to build the Denver clinic, which is scheduled for a November groundbreaking.
Johnny Hunter, president of the Life Education And Resource Network in Fayetteville, N.C.—which bills itself as “the largest African-American, evangelical pro-life ministry in the United States”—said the Aurora protests have caught the attention of black abortion opponents in his state.
“I’m involved in it because . . . children are dying, and it’s affecting the black community worse than anybody else,” he said.
Groups that support abortion rights also are spreading the word to their members.
Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers, said word about the battle in Aurora was posted on the group’s Web site, and information about it was included in the newsletter.
“We want to make sure that people are aware of the tactic, that they are able to support the clinic, that they are able to defeat such tactics in their own communities,” Saporta said.
Jill Stanek, an anti-abortion blogger with a nationwide following based in south suburban Mokena, says Planned Parenthood stirred up a hornet’s nest not only because of its secrecy, but also by building in an area touched by three Roman Catholic jurisdictions from which abortion protesters could be recruited.
“They have brought all this on themselves and created a perfect storm,” she said. “More people are participating in this than we’ve seen in decades.”
rworking@tribune.com
jkimberly@tribune.com
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

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