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Planned Parenthood supporters speak up
By Amy Boerema | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/12/2007 12:14 AM

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Planned Parenthood, and its much-needed, affordable health-care services are welcome in Aurora, supporters of the east side clinic told the community Tuesday.

More than 100 residents rallied in front of city hall before the city council meeting, sporting bright pink T-shirts that read, "I support Planned Parenthood."

It was the first organized rally in support of the controversial facility at Oakhurst Drive and New York Street.

Also on Tuesday, city officials announced an independent attorney, Phillip Luetkehans of Itasca firm Schirott & Luetkehans, has begun a review of the facility's permit process. The center will not be able to open until the review is complete.

But Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area, said he remains confident the clinic can open as scheduled on Sept. 18.

"We have patients scheduled for services that day," he said. "The only thing that stands between us and opening is politics."

Unlike the last council meeting, which lasted into the next morning, with all but two of the 100-plus speakers opposing the center, residents' opinions inside council chambers Tuesday were more mixed, though the majority still opposed Planned Parenthood.

About 140 had signed up to speak on the non-agenda issue but because of the city fire code, police limited the number of people inside council chambers. In addition, city officials limited public comment to three hours, which ended around 9:50 p.m.

From both sides, there were emotional pleas and tears. There also were people praying, reciting from the Bible and health journals -- even one woman who at one point led opponents in singing, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

Many clinic supporters said abortion services are only about 10 percent of total services provided. Planned Parenthood also offers educational and preventative services and counseling, including for adoption, they said.

They talked about the value of choice and the importance of health care access.

Kim Stemm, who lives near the clinic, said she and her neighbors welcomed it and were "more concerned about the protesters than the actual clinic."

She also believes officials were spending unneeded money for an independent review.

Meredith Bell of Aurora said she's never had an abortion and doesn't ever plan to get one. "I would like access to services that would help me not need one," she said.

Opponents once again had an impressive showing inside council chambers, with several requesting the city adopt a parental consent law for minors.

College student Sara Wagner said Aurora's youth are smarter than Planned Parenthood gives them credit for.

"Planned Parenthood has misrepresented themselves to the city of Aurora," she said. "Planned Parenthood also misrepresents other things, such as motherhood."

Outside, Melissa Ernst of Aurora brought her family to the rally in support of the clinic. Her baby, Lilianna, 18 months, wore a tiny pink Planned Parenthood T-shirt. The clinic helped her plan for her family, she said, an opportunity that should be available to all women.

"It's unfortunate we're having this discussion in 2007," she said.