As case is appealed, demonstrators gather outside proposed Planned Parenthood clinic (Oakland Press)

Published in The Oakland Press on March 9, 2012

By Ann Zaniewski

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Published: 03.09.12| Updated: 03.09.12

As a legal dispute heads to the state’s Court of Appeals, about 50 demonstrators, some holding signs and playing bagpipes, gathered Thursday outside a proposed Planned Parenthood clinic in Auburn Hills

“We’re here to present a prayerful public awareness against abortion,” said Dave Theisen, who organized the protest and is the founder of the White Lake-based group Real Estate for Life.

The proposed clinic, at 1625 N. Opdyke Road, has been a hot button topic and the subject of a lawsuit. The owners of an adjacent Comfort Suites Hotel believe that a Planned Parenthood clinic is not permitted under a restrictive covenant that limits usage of the site to “restaurant, retail or office.”

Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan sued the hotel owners, Shri Sai-Krishna Group, L.L.C., accusing them of trying to interfere with its lawful use of the property. In January, Oakland Circuit Judge James Alexander said Planned Parenthood has the legal right to use the property as a medical office.

James Carey, the attorney for the hotel owners, is appealing the ruling. He recently filed a notice with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Planned Parenthood officials were disappointed to learn of appeal.

“It’s very disappointing for us because we have every faith in Judge Alexander’s opinion, and frankly we went to court so we could clear the way to start serving the people in Oakland County. This just means another delay in this process,” said Desiree Cooper, director of Community and Media Relations for Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan

Carey has said that the “office” use in the restrictive covenant does not allow medical offices that conduct outpatient surgeries, a reference to the abortions that protesters fear will be conducted at the site.

Planned Parenthood officials say they have not yet decided which specific services will be offered at the 17,000-square foot building, other than family planning services and health screenings. Abortions are conducted at four of Planned Parenthood’s 17 facilities in Michigan.

On Thursday, a light drizzle fell under gray skies as about a dozen children carrying yellow balloons with the word “life” on them marched on the sidewalk calling out various messages, including “We are pro-life!”

“We just came out to celebrate life and show that we do not want this abortion clinic to open,” said 17-year-old Rebecca Smith, president of the Michigan group of Crusaders for Life.

Also at the protest were members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property. Some wore red capes and played bagpipes.

John Ritchie, who lives in Pennsylvania and is director of student activities for the group, said the demonstration was twofold: To defend innocent, unborn life and protest “Obamacare” and policies that would compel employers, including Catholic institutions, to offer health insurance that covers birth control.

Some demonstrators prayed the rosary. Others waved at passing traffic. A number of drivers honked their horns in apparent approval.

Wendy Paton of Auburn Hills came to the demonstration with her white German shepherd mix named Snow. Paton lives near the building.

“Knowing that babies are being murdered so close to my home breaks my heart,” she said.

Cooper said any planned remodeling or other work on the building is on hold pending the court appeal.

“Honestly, it is so disappointing to know that people are unemployed and without insurance, and that political wrangling is what’s keeping them away from basic health care that they need, that we’re there to provide,” she said.

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