Planned Parenthood opponents filed a libel lawsuit today, alleging a clinic official accused them of advocating violence and having a history of violence and criminal activity.
The lawsuit, filed this morning in Kane County District Court, will seek maximum damages on behalf of the Aurora protesters, including 19 individual residents, a release states.
It was filed by Chicago's Thomas More Society on behalf of the Pro-Life Action League.
The Planned Parenthood clinic, on the city's far east side, has been a hot-button issue for weeks, mainly because it will offer abortion services.
On Sept. 5, Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area, sent a letter to city aldermen as part of a public relations campaign to build support for the clinic. A version of that message also appeared as ads in area newspapers.
The letter said while officials complied with all legal public disclosures in their permit applications, the project was initially kept quiet because they didn't want their workers harassed.
The suit alleges Trombley accused protesters in the letter of having "a well-documented history of violence and criminal activity" and "advocating violence against both persons and property as well as other related criminal activity."
Such statements are maliciously false and libelous, the suit says.
"Trombley and Planned Parenthood need to be held accountable for the outrageous statements they made both to Aurora officials and the public," attorney Tom Brejcha, chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, said in a statement.
"You cannot accuse the peaceful citizens of Aurora of violent crimes and advocating violence simply because you disagree with their message," he said.
Court rules prohibit asking for large monetary claims in initial complaints, but Pro-Life Action League supporters say they "would be happy to take Planned Parenthood's $7.55 million building off its hands in lieu of damages."
In a statement, Planned Parenthood officials said they had heard news of a possible lawsuit.
"The people who have filed these cases, however, have not taken any further action which would advance their lawsuit, such as actually serving us with the complaint," they said.