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Columnist
Clinic's protesters don't all speak for community
By Joni Hirsch Blackman | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/22/2007 1:51 AM

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Tobacco kills.

No one disputes that, yet tobacco is sold in countless stores throughout the country and in our community. In fact, there is a tobacco shop not far from where I live in Naperville, and I -- someone who has watched people die because of tobacco -- sneer when I drive by.

It's tempting, but I'd never harass the people who go in there or try to have the store shut down -- even though the whole purpose for the place being there is to sell something that eventually will kill whoever is using it.

Tobacco is legal and the store has a right to be there. So instead, I, and others who feel the way I do, try to educate people about the dangers of tobacco.

That's not good enough for those opposed to abortion. They not only voice their opposition, they want everyone to be "protected" from a new health clinic in Aurora near Naperville offering many necessary health care services besides abortion.

From Planned Parenthood's Aurora location Web site: "At Planned Parenthood, we believe the preventative services this health care center will offer will do more in one day to promote responsible family planning and prevent the need for abortion than our opponents will do in a lifetime of protests."

To "protect" the community -- the new comprehensive facility will replace a small Naperville Planned Parenthood -- opponents of the facility have gone to great lengths, including harassment and intimidation of employees of the clinic. Thanks in part to their protests, the clinic's opening was delayed.

Opponents of the clinic placed newspaper ads misrepresenting why the clinic exists and what its goals are.

But the newspaper ad I found particularly interesting was one that ran Sunday on page 17A in the Daily Herald. The ad supported the clinic, accurately noting it will offer a wide range of reproductive health care services and bring "high-quality, affordable and accessible health care to women who currently do not have such services in their area."

Perhaps surprisingly, this ad was placed by a long list of religious leaders. Yes, religious leaders supporting a Planned Parenthood clinic. Some would have you believe that anyone tolerant of such thing must be a heathen.

"There is an incorrect impression that all religious people are anti-choice," the ad stated. "Within every major world religious community, there are strong voices that understand their tradition as supporting a woman's right to choose.

"We believe that people of faith and goodwill can disagree on this issue and have the right to express their opinions freely."

Sound familiar? Sounds like the First Amendment to me.

The ad was signed by 19 members of clergy of various churches and synagogues. It was paid for by Planned Parenthood.

People whose religious beliefs differ are often able to co-exist peacefully. Mormons who don't drink alcohol don't harass bar owners or patrons. Jews who keep Kosher don't picket or protest places that sell cheeseburgers. Muslims who fast during Ramadan do not attack those who eat. It's not for them, but it's legal. Why can't religious people who oppose abortion behave in the same way?

Better than using this health-care facility as a target of anger and hostility would be to work to change laws they disagree with, while others will work to keep them the way they are.

Why can't those who oppose abortion try to educate others on why they are opposed to it, and let those who choose to be a patient at this facility do so in peace, no matter what their appointment is for?

Simplistic? Perhaps. But also a better example for our children and a better atmosphere for our community.

Our community. Two things have surprised me: how much press and interest this has generated outside of our community and how little I hear people in our community talking about this issue.

Community members should speak up. Don't let extremists from around the country make decisions in your neighborhood.