AURORA, Ill. – A suburban Planned Parenthood clinic opened Tuesday, two weeks later than planned, after anti-abortion activists raised questions about how it received its building permits.
On Monday, Mayor Tom Weisner said that Planned Parenthood was "less than forthcoming" when it used a subsidiary to build a clinic in this Chicago suburb, but attorney reviews found no legal basis to deny an occupancy permit.
Weisner said the city received thousands of letters and phone calls from people voicing passionate opinions about abortion while the legal reviews were pending.
"As government we are here to follow the law, and I believe that is what we have done," Weisner said.
About 100 protesters — some holding red roses, others rosaries and some with signs reading "Planned Parenthood: Bad for Aurora" — gathered on sidewalks near the clinic, which became a focus of the national abortion debate while local officials reviewed the development process.
City officials would not provide occupancy permits while they tried to determine if local laws were followed when Planned Parenthood applied for building permits under a subsidiary, Gemini Office Development.
Planned Parenthood officials said they did so to protect the clinic's staff and construction workers from round-the-clock protests, but there was no effort to defraud city officials.
"We have no regrets about how we went about this process," Steve Trombley, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area, said Tuesday. "We kept it private from our opponents, and we did it for good reason."
Trombley said patients were expected Tuesday and later this week at the facility, located about 35 miles west of Chicago in the state's second-largest city.
But with one lawsuit already filed by anti-abortion activists and another one promised, the case is likely to stay active in the courts.
"It won't be over until Planned Parenthood leaves Aurora," said Eric Scheidler, a spokesman for the Pro-Life Action League, which has organized protests and prayer vigils outside the building.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood's 22,000-square-foot, $7.5 million building was decorated with a bright pink 40-foot banner reading "This Center is Now Open."
Dee Manny, head of the McHenry County Citizens for Choice, said the clinic would offer valuable health services to poor and uninsured women. She also said it's important to protect abortion rights.
"The anti-choice people want to take us back to the 19th century when contraception was not available and women begged their doctors to help avoid pregnancy," she said.
But Lucie Groleske of Aurora said she wanted to remind women there are alternatives to abortion.
"In this age when people are trying to 'go green' and recycle, recycle, recycle, yet people are throwing away the most valuable resource on this planet — a human being," said the 37-year-old stay-at-home mother of four.
Anti-abortion protesters have accused Planned Parenthood of deceiving officials in Illinois' second-largest city into granting building permits.
It became public knowledge in late July that Planned Parenthood would occupy the space.
Scheidler said his group planned to file another lawsuit in DuPage County on Tuesday claiming that because Planned Parenthood is a not-for-profit, it required a special-use permit that would have required a public hearing and notification of nearby property owners.
One attorney's reviews already dismissed that argument.