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Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area Seeks Federal Court Order Allowing Aurora Health Center to Open As Scheduled on September 18
CHICAGO – Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area is in federal court today seeking an injunction to allow its new health center in Aurora to open as scheduled on September 18, saying the City of Aurora has no legal basis for blocking the opening and that its revocation of a temporary operating permit is motivated solely by political opposition to the constitutionally protected right to abortion services.
The request filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago asks the Court to issue an injunction barring the City of Aurora from preventing the scheduled September 18 opening. The City has revoked a temporary occupancy permit issued on August 16 pending completion of a review of the permitting process that won’t likely be completed until after September 18.
“Aurora’s actions … are not related to any legitimate municipal concern, but instead are motivated solely by political opposition to the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortion services as part of a broad range of health care services for its patients,” the filing states. “Accordingly, Planned Parenthood seeks injunctive relief … to prevent Aurora from continuing to deprive Planned Parenthood’s constitutionally protected right to equal protection under the law.”
The City of Aurora’s refusal to allow Planned Parenthood to open pending a review of the permitting process is “both undefined in scope and indefinite in nature,” argues PP/CA. Without intervention by the court, “Planned Parenthood may never be able to operate its facility in Aurora.”
As to claims by Planned Parenthood opponents that the organization “misled” the city about the type of medical facility it would operate, today’s filing argues that those accusations are factually and legally wrong — and irrelevant.
“The City of Aurora’s fig leaf argument that it was ‘misled’ about the nature of the services that Planned Parenthood intends to provide at its facility is neither factually nor legally persuasive,” PP/CA says.
As a factual matter, the complaint notes that Planned Parenthood had publicly announced its intention to operate a medical facility providing a full range of reproductive services — including birth control, family planning counseling and abortions — in a front-page Chicago Tribune story in late July, well before the city issued the temporary occupancy permit on August 16.
“Only when protesters began appearing at the Planned Parenthood facility in late August and testifying at public hearings before the City of Aurora, did the status of Planned Parenthood’s facility change,” PP/CA argues.
Furthermore, PP/CA 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.
Finally, the complaint points out that architectural drawings provided to Aurora during the permitting process displayed not only the surgical rooms in the facility, but also the security measures built into its design. These included bulletproof drywall and bulletproof glass for the entry lobby.
“None of this was hidden from the City in any way,” the filing says.
On legal grounds, Aurora’s implied claim that it was somehow misled are even less persuasive, PP/CA argues. It cites a 2001 federal case in New Hampshire that parallels the Aurora situation, in which the court issued an injunction blocking the city of Manchester, NH, from preventing the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic after public criticism.
In that case, the court noted: “If the issuing authority was ‘misled’ as to the identity of the prospective tenant who would be providing medical services at the site, that identity would have been irrelevant to any impartial decision. … [T]hat the proposed tenant proposed to engage in constitutionally protected activities in providing medical services — such as providing abortion and contraception counseling and services — would have been equally irrelevant.”
PP/CA argues that it is seeking to operate a medical facility consistent with the Aurora zoning code and should be treated no differently than any other properly zoned medical facility. The city’s only objection, PP/CA argues, is that it “was not given the opportunity to discriminate based on the fact that Planned Parenthood provides constitutionally protected services such as contraception and abortion to its patients.”
In seeking the injunction, PP/CA argues that it would win on the merits at a full trial, and that the injunction is necessary to prevent irreparable harm to patients seeking reproductive health services and to Planned Parenthood.
“Patients in the western suburbs of Chicago would have to travel more than 70 miles round trip to obtain services from the nearest Planned Parenthood facility. Many of the patients who have neither the means nor the time for this travel would be effectively denied health care as a result of the City of Aurora’s conduct,” PP/CA argues in its request for the injunction, again citing the Manchester, NH, federal court ruling.
“As the court noted in Manchester, ‘Every day [Planned Parenthood] is prevented from occupying its new facility increases the likelihood that abortion or contraception or family planning patients will have to seek alternative care either in hospital settings, at considerable expense, or by traveling to other facilities.’"
Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area, says many patients already have scheduled Aurora health center visits on September 18.
“Should we tell them that the City Council needs more time to determine whether they should be allowed access to the reproductive health care they need and are entitled to receive?” he asked.