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Aurora clinic protests heat up
By Rupa Shenoy | Daily Herald Staff

Pro-life and pro-choice groups staged rallies today at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora today.


Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Pro-choice groups stood on the north side of New York Street in Aurora during demonstrations outside a new Planned Parenthood center, which is said to be the country's largest.


Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/25/2007 7:33 PM

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A street in Aurora embodied the bitter divide between pro-life and pro-choice groups this morning.

On the east side of New York Street, near the intersection with Oakhurst Street, a band of about 50 thrust signs that said "Keep abortion legal" at passing cars.

On the west side, and stretching for two blocks to the south on Oakhurst, were moving lines of about 500 people who sang, chanted, and held signs that portrayed a growing fetus or screamed, "Baby Killers!" In another sign, Christ held his face in his hands.

Between both sides was a constant, fast-moving stream of honking cars.

Sitting quietly on a corner off Oakhurst was the cause of all the fervor: a new 22,000-square-foot, $7.5 million Planned Parenthood center set to open Sept. 18.

Said to be the nation's largest abortion clinic, the center has engendered support from women's rights groups while drawing fire from pro-life organizations that say abortion is killing.

Bonnie Grabenhofer, Illinois National Organization for Women president, said the hundreds of pro-life protesters didn't represent the community because they were brought in from as far away as other states.

"They can't show numbers nationally," said Grabenhofer, an Aurora resident. "So they descend on local communities so they can show numbers locally."

Grabenhofer cited polling data that shows most Americans are pro-choice. "It's a very sad commentary that all these people are here to take away women's rights," she said.

All the pro-choice demonstrators were locals, Grabenhofer added.

"I'm kind of glad that they've come and done this," said DuPage NOW Vice President Gay Bruhn, who lives just blocks from the clinic. "It's caused a reemergence of our members."

Pro-Life Action League spokesman Eric Scheidler said that while many pro-lifers had been bused in, they all represent the community because the clinic would serve the whole region.

"They had ample opportunity to bring people in, too," he said, referring to the pro-choice group. "Look what they got."

Scheidler, an Aurora resident, repeated claims made in recent weeks that Planned Parenthood had defrauded the city by misrepresenting itself, and that city leaders hadn't talked to the community enough before approving the measure.

Chicago's Thomas More Society is seeking a temporary restraining order against the city Aurora in Illinois District Court.

"This clearly has an impact on property values here," said resident Jim Murphy, who moved to the same ward as the clinic a year ago. "Aurora does not need to be known as the Auschwitz of America."

Grabenhofer later said that the protesters themselves would drive property values down with the spectacle they create.

Murphy, who held a Bible as he mingled in the crowd, said he had never been associated with a pro-life group before. But now the issue will influence how he votes in the next local election, he said.

A retired Navy captain, with two sons in the military, Murphy said his family had spent too much time defending civil liberties to allow "the killing of innocent lives."

His wife, Cynthia, who as a symbolic gesture held "It's a girl" and "It's a boy" balloons, said she had called area churches to urge them to participate.

"When there's a clinic, it tells young women that abortion is OK," she said.

Jennifer Winkle, a 16-year-old senior who is president of Aurora Rosary High School's pro-life group, has taken aim at those young women by making announcements and putting up posters at her school.

"We need to let people know there are other alternatives besides abortion," said Winkle, who will return to New York Street next Saturday as one of the organizers of a teen rally against the clinic.