Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New Aurora, IL Planned Parenthood opening delayed

Clinic's opening likely to be delayed

Aurora mayor says permit bid at issue

By Gerry Smith | Chicago Tribune staff reporter

September 7, 2007

The opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora likely will be delayed as officials investigate whether the group's occupancy permit application was proper, Mayor Tom Weisner said Thursday.

The site is zoned for medical offices, and the city issued a temporary occupancy permit for Gemini Health Center. Steve Trombley, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood in Chicago, said the group left its name off the application because it did not want to alert opponents that the clinic was being built at 3051 E. New York St.

It is a strategy the agency has employed since a 2004 boycott by contractors stalled work for two months on an Austin, Texas, clinic.

But Weisner said the clinic's scheduled opening Sept. 18 is in doubt because the city has hired an outside attorney to investigate the legality of the permit process, and the investigation likely would not be completed in time.

"We're not going to allow operations to begin until we've accomplished the investigation," Weisner said.

Trombley said the group had "no reason to believe that the city will not complete its review by the 18th," adding that it was critical for the clinic to open that day because several patients have scheduled appointments.

Opponents, led by Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, claim Planned Parenthood duped the city into issuing a permit after hiding the fact that the clinic would perform abortions.

City officials said all they knew about the property was it was zoned for a medical building called Gemini Health Center. They have said it is not unusual for a development company to receive permits without the city knowing the tenants.

Once opponents knew the clinic would offer abortions in addition to other reproductive health services, they began a 24-hour, 40-day prayer vigil. A protest Aug. 16 drew 400.

After remaining largely silent in the face of the protests, Planned Parenthood has launched a public relations campaign, sending a letter to city officials defending its application for an occupancy permit and distributing T-shirts and bumper stickers to supporters.

But Eric Scheidler, a spokesman for the Pro-Life Action League, said Planned Parenthood should have disclosed its plans to open the clinic from the beginning.

"They got caught in a lie and now they're trying to make up for it," Scheidler said. "But it's too little too late."

The city has issued Planned Parenthood a temporary occupancy permit, which expires Sept. 17 and prohibits the clinic from operating.

More protests are planned outside City Hall on Tuesday and near the clinic site Sept. 15, Scheidler said. The facility will be Planned Parenthood's first full-service site in the Chicago area in 20 years and the only one to perform abortions other than a Near North Side Chicago location.

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