Pro-lifers pray on Planned Parenthood’s 3rd anniversary in Aurora [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
In 2007, Planned Parenthood built their notorious “Abortion Fortress” in Aurora, Illinois, sparking such controversy that the city earned the title of “Ground Zero” in the abortion battle from prolife and pro-choice leaders alike. The fight to shut down this monstrous abortuary continues to this day on many fronts, under the leadership of the Pro-Life Action League.
Zoning Case Gets New Judge
A zoning lawsuit that could ultimately shut down the Abortion Fortress is now working its way through state court. In May, Judge Neal Cerne ordered that the court review the entire dubious process by which Planned Parenthood gained city approval while concealing their identity and deceiving city officials.
But in August a new judge, Thomas Dudgeon, was assigned to the case, causing delay. A case management hearing has been set for December 3, after which it is hoped the review long sought by area residents will be conducted, and Planned Parenthood held fully accountable for deceiving the community.
Settlement Meeting with Aurora
The Settlement Agreement signed this spring between pro-life advocates and the City of Aurora to safeguard pro-lifers’ civil rights is finally in full force, with the first of its required quarterly meetings held September 17. The League’s Eric Scheidler and Matt Yonke met with Aurora police Commander Kristen Ziman, Lieutenant Nick Coronado, Sergeant Jeffrey Tate and the mayor’s chief of staff, Bill Wiet.
City representatives seemed genuinely concerned about respecting the rights of protesters, and described their nascent efforts to train police. Since the meeting, incidents of police interference with pro-life witness have decreased noticeably. However, the City has not as yet amended offending parts of the city code as required by the Settlement, an issue Eric and Matt will raise at the next meeting, December 17.
Pro-lifers picket outside Planned Parenthood Aurora [Photo by Sam Schedler]
Aurora Mulls Free Speech Restrictions
No sooner was the ink dry on the Settlement Agreement (see above) than the City of Aurora launched a fresh assault on First Amendment rights of its citizens. They’re considering changes to the city’s peddling ordinance that would require citizens get a permit 30 days before distributing printed materials of any kind or face a $150 fine.
Ostensibly intended to address litter problems caused by free newspapers advertising circulars, the new law would severely limit constitutionally protected activity like voter registrations drives or the kind of door-to-door canvassing undertaken by the League in the fight against Planned Parenthood.
The League’s Eric Scheidler, an Aurora resident, has strongly opposed the new law, speaking out at public hearings August 3 and October 19. Outcry from newspaper companies, local businesses and community groups seems to have put the brakes on the measure for now, but Eric is keeping an close eye on developments and will be ready to stop the measure in court if the City is foolish enough to pass it into law.
Scheidler v Trombley Libel Suit
So far, the Illinois Supreme Court has twice refused to take Eric Scheidler’s appeal in his Scheidler v. Trombley libel suit, filed three years ago in response to then-CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois Steve Trombley’s claim, made in letters to the Aurora City Council and fullpage newspaper ads, that the Pro-Life Action League has “a welldocumented history of advocating violence.”
In a bizarre twist that could only happen in an abortion-related case, Planned Parenthood sought protection from Eric’s libel claims under Illinois’ Citizen Participation Act (CPA), designed to protect grassroots activists from being silence by the threat of groundless but cripplingly expensive lawsuits. Turning this law upside-down, Planned Parenthood lawyers convinced the trial judge that because Trombley was seeking government actions, he was immune from libel charges.
Four of Eric’s six libel and slander counts against Trombley were dismissed and Planned Parenthood is seeking payment of attorneys fees. They originally demanded over $317,000, but someone close to their legal team has indicated they’ll be asking for over $1,000,000 at the next hearing.
League attorneys suspect the Illinois Supreme Court was reluctant to take Eric’s appeal while two remaining counts remain to be litigated in court. However, they are confident that the high court will ultimately take the case and decide in Eric’s favor, since rulings by other state courts directly contradict the logic of the ruling in Eric’s case. Other judges are ruling that the CPA is meant merely to screen out obviously frivolous lawsuits, not to gut Illinois’ libel laws.
Abortion Fortress 3rd Anniversary Vigil
Pro-Life resistance has continued at the Abortion Fortress of Aurora since it opened three years ago, with sidewalk counselors and prayer partners active throughout the week and protests held the third Saturday of every month.
To mark the third anniversary of the dark day when the center opened, the League hosted a 24-hour vigil from noon to noon, October 1-2, including a candlelight prayer service led by Pastor Jeff Moore of First Presbyterian Church of Aurora. Seventy pro-lifers attended the moving service, recommitting themselves to shutting down the Abortion Fortress of Aurora once and for all.