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City council ready for more debate on clinic
By Amy Boerema | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/25/2007 12:03 AM

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The debate over the controversial Planned Parenthood clinic certainly isn't Aurora's only ongoing issue.

But if the past two city council meetings are any indication, it's the one most people seem to care about.

Both clinic supporters and opponents are expected to be out again tonight.

Planned Parenthood and the Pro-Life Action League both plan to hold rallies at 5 p.m. outside city hall, 44 E. Downer Place, prior to the 6 p.m. council meeting.

More than 150 people also have signed up to speak on the nonagenda item as of 4 p.m. Monday, city spokeswoman Carie Anne Ergo said.

The proposed clinic, at New York Street and Oakhurst Drive on the city's east side, would provide a variety of health services for women, including abortions. The debate over whether it should be allowed to open has attracted the biggest series of crowds to the council chambers in recent years, officials said.

Hundreds packed city hall Aug. 28, with public comment lasting into the next morning. Aldermen at the Sept. 11 meeting limited public input to three hours. Police also limited the number of people inside the chambers at any one time because of fire code concerns.

Both sides see the next few days as a critical time to rally support, as the city waits for completion of an outside review of the clinic's permit process. That could come by Friday.

A federal judge last week ordered Planned Parenthood to remain closed until the review is done.

Tonight, Pro-Life Action League supporters will ask aldermen to publicly deliberate the results of the review and vote on their next step, spokesman Eric Scheidler said.

The integrity of council government is at stake, he said, with the matter too important for a final decision to rest with Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti, who is overseeing the review.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood officials say they're fully engaged "in the fight to open the Aurora health center for the long haul," according to their Web site. "We will not let anything get in the way of our mission of providing much-needed health care to the people who need it most."

Clinic officials said they plan to re-submit a court request next week to open immediately.

Though some aldermen had suggested moving the location of tonight's meeting to accommodate the larger crowds, Ergo said the city opted not to because the clinic is not an agenda item and no action will be taken.

Aldermen, however, can set time limits on speakers. But at least one official says he doesn't mind the seemingly endless debate.

"It's refreshing," Alderman Rick Lawrence said. "It's people holding us accountable."