Vowing to "stop the poison from flowing into Aurora," hundreds of supporters of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League on Thursday protested the opening of a Planned Parenthood facility on the city's east side.
Also on Thursday, Bonnie Grabenhofer, president of the Illinois National Organization of Women, welcomed the clinic to the community and told "the extremists" to go home.
The 22,000-square-foot building at Oakhurst Drive and New York Street will offer birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling, sexually transmitted disease testing, and treatment and abortion services. It's set to open Sept. 18.
About 100 protesters attended a news conference held at the site, holding pictures of babies and waving signs reading "Mommy, let me live" and yellow arrows proclaiming "abortionist." Dozens of small white crosses in the ground read "John Doe baby."
Planned Parenthood officials used deceptive tactics to come to Aurora, Eric Scheidler, Pro-Life Action League spokesman, told the crowd.
"Planned Parenthood lures our youth into dangerous sexual activity and drives a wedge between parent and child," he said.
His group is in the seventh day of a 40-day prayer vigil. He said they'll pray for 40 days, 40 years, or however long it takes to "shut down the abortion fortress of Aurora."
National activist Jim Sedlak of STOPP Planned Parenthood mentioned a case where protesters raised legal challenges that stopped a facility from opening.
Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area, said he knows of no cases of a facility not opening if it was scheduled to.
In fact, he said Thursday night, officials that day received a temporary occupancy permit. They have passed every inspection so far, he said, and they will open Sept. 18.
"People will always make outrageous claims," he said of the protesters. "When they (do), they're just talking to themselves."
People on both sides have a right to speak out, he said, but in front of a health center is not the right place to debate.
Several hundred of the protesters met after the news conference at the Prisco Center to strategize.
The center sends a message that moms can "get rid" of their kids if they're inconvenient, said Denise Mackura, director of Ohio Right to Life.
"What you're doing is very powerful," she said to the protesters. "You have every right ... because of how this poisons your community."
Leaders encouraged people to spread the word, sign petitions and contact city and state officials with concerns. Swarm them with the message, they said.
Meanwhile, a group of about 35 Planned Parenthood supporters stood on Illinois Avenue waving signs that read "Defend a woman's right to choose" and "Keep the choice yours."
"We welcome the Planned Parenthood clinic," said Grabenhofer. "We're glad they're coming."
Most people believe in a woman's right to choose, she said. And those who do choose have a right to services "without harassment and without self-righteous condemnation."
"This is my town," she said. "I want the extremists to go home."