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Aurora clinic focus of protest, vigil
By Amy Boerema | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/25/2007 1:25 AM

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Planned Parenthood on Aurora's east side hasn't even opened yet but already has seen plenty of action.

That action continues today, with a massive protest planned from 9 to 11 a.m. at the center, at New York Street and Oakhurst Drive.

The 22,000-square-foot facility is believed to be the nation's largest Planned Parenthood. It's set to open on Sept. 18.

The protest, organized by Chicago's Pro-Life Action League, could draw hundreds of from both sides of the abortion issue.

Planned Parenthood protesters are in the middle of an on-site, 'round-the-clock prayer vigil that's expected to continue until the center opens -- and maybe after.

They have been praying faithfully, even during recent storms, that the center leaves for good, said Eric Scheidler, Pro-Life Action League spokesman.

"They have told me how they are grateful to stand in a thunderstorm to protect our families," he said.

Protesters will display graphic abortion pictures and hand out pamphlets to drivers and residents from the nearby Oakhurst subdivision.

Though Planned Parenthood has a temporary occupancy permit, allowing the facility to open, Scheidler said his group plans to urge aldermen at Tuesday's city council meeting to launch a formal investigation into the center for "sneaking in under false pretenses."

They criticize Planned Parenthood leaders for not disclosing to the public earlier what the building was going to be used for.

In city records, the owner of the site, which was zoned for medical office use, is listed as Gemini Development Corp., a subsidiary of Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood leaders have said they followed all developer guidelines -- a point on which city leaders agree -- and that the city zones for medical buildings and not for "podiatrists, general internists and plastic surgery."

Meanwhile, members of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for Women will be there to counterprotest.

President Bonnie Grabenhofer said they'll have a smaller crowd than the Pro-Life Action League.

"They have been organizing for a long time, calling in national people," she said. "We view this as more of a local event."

Planned Parenthood needs to know it's welcome by many groups, Grabenhofer said, because of its much-needed services.

"These people know it's a futile attempt to keep the clinic from opening," she said. "They're bullies that are descending on our community to threaten, harass and intimidate our women."

Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area, has repeatedly said protesting -- or counterprotesting -- in front of a medical center is inappropriate. The fight should be saved for the courts, he said.

Meanwhile, Aurora police have assigned "what we believe to be adequate resources to keep the peace during the event," spokesman Dan Ferrelli said.

"We have no reason to believe this will be anything other than a peaceful demonstration," he said.