Building in secrecy

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2005
Building in secrecy
Tue, 07-31-2007 - 4:20pm
Abortion clinic built under radar
Planned Parenthood to open Aurora site
By Bonnie Miller Rubin and James Kimberly

Tribune staff reporters

July 27, 2007

Neighbors who drive by the bustling construction site in Aurora think they are seeing the completion of the "Gemini Health Center," just as the sign says. So do the painters, carpenters, electricians and other tradesmen who have been working on the project for the last eight months.

But in a few weeks the sign will be changed to reflect the true owners of the building: Planned Parenthood. At 22,000 square feet, this is among its larger facilities in the nation, providing a wide range of women's health services -- including abortions.

Growth in the counties Aurora straddles -- DuPage, Will, Kendall and Kane -- has created an intense need for more comprehensive and affordable women's health care. And while the majority of patients come to Planned Parenthood for birth control, testing for gynecological cancers or screening for sexually transmitted diseases, it is the abortions that have made this a stealth venture almost 35 years after Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

"Frankly, I'm surprised we were able to keep it a secret for so long," said Steve Trombley, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area, carefully avoiding a freshly painted wall as he offered a tour of the facility. "We didn't want anything to interfere with the opening ... and, at this point, I don't anticipate anything will stop that from happening."

The $7.5 million facility at 240 N. Oakhurst Drive, in DuPage County, adjacent to a Dominick's, is scheduled to open Sept. 18. In the planning stages since 2002, it is Planned Parenthood's first full-service site in the Chicago area in 20 years and the only one to perform abortions outside of a Near North Side Chicago location. Private donors contributed $5 million toward its construction.

It would be the only clinic performing abortions in Aurora; another clinic closed last year after its doctor retired.

As of Thursday, not a single protester had appeared on the scene. But even at this late date, anti-abortion activists vow to create some hurdles to abortion in Aurora.

"It is not going to be possible to stop construction," conceded Ann Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League. "It's probably more a matter of damage control at this point."

Scheidler said the league is bringing to town the executive director of the anti-abortion group STOPP, which seeks to shutter Planned Parenthood, to a strategy meeting scheduled for Aug. 16.

Avoiding builder boycotts

That the clinic was kept hush-hush for so long was no accident. Planned Parenthood adopted the strategy after a 2004 boycott by contractors stalled work for two months on a clinic in Austin, Texas. The boycott, organized by a concrete contractor, pressured subcontractors with being blacklisted from future employment. The contractor ended up quitting the job, and Planned Parenthood acted as its own general contractor to finish the facility.

Still, the tactic was heralded as a new economic tool in the arsenal of abortion foes.

As in Austin, word of the Aurora clinic was leaked to anti-abortion forces by a contractor, Scheidler said.

"He knew there was a recovery room. It was obviously a surgery center of some sort. I guess the bullet-proof glass and all the security, the security cameras, made him concerned," she said.

Aurora Councilman Chris Beykirch, who represents that part of the city, said he learned that Planned Parenthood was building the clinic only last week. The property was zoned for a medical/office building, however, so the city could not have blocked construction -- not that it should have tried, he said. He said he was disappointed that the agency felt it was necessary to be secretive.

The project appears to be full-steam ahead. A staff of 24 -- answering "help wanted" ads for an unnamed clinic -- is being hired. The sleek cabinetry and faux wood floors are in place. The airy examining and recovery rooms are almost complete. It has a large conference room where the employees can meet with civic groups.

"We want to introduce ourselves to the community ... rather than be defined by our adversaries," Trombley said.

Kendall County is the nation's second-fastest-growing county, increasing by 62 percent from April 2000 to July 2006, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released last month. "This is a medically underserved area," Trombley said.

The full-service Chicago clinic is 35 miles away, a significant hurdle for Aurora's low-income and uninsured population.

"This is a conservative community -- but teens are very sexually active," said Wendy Fegenhols, who recently retired from the DuPage County Health Department and serves on the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. "Anyone who is in contact with the school population recognizes the need."

While teen pregnancy rates have declined during the last decade, sexually transmitted infections -- specifically, chlamydia and HIV -- have steadily increased in DuPage, Kane, Will and Kendall Counties, according to state health officials.

Indeed, Planned Parenthood has opened three suburban "express" sites -- in Naperville, Schaumburg and Orland Park -- which mostly offer birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections. The closest site to the new facility, in Naperville, logged more than 13,700 visits last year.

Foes plan protests

Planned Parenthood may have won the battle by building the Aurora clinic in secrecy, but the war is far from over, anti-abortion forces vowed. The Pro-Life Action League held a strategy session on the clinic Thursday and decided to begin picketing the site Aug. 22. The group intends to target not only the clinic, said Scheidler, but customers of nearby businesses as well.

"We will be out protesting with our ugly graphic pictures that everyone hates. People don't want to go shopping or go to the dentist with those pictures out there," Scheidler said.

Such tactics are precisely what have residents of the nearby Oakhurst subdivision concerned, said Homeowners Association President Jonathan Lack. The community of 2,200 homes -- more than half are single-family residences -- could best be described as "conservative and Republican."

He predicted that among residents, "very few people are going to be in the 'I don't care' camp. ...

"It is a lightening-rod issue for a lot of people on both sides of it," Lack said. "Having protesters on both sides does not really fit with the neighborhood aesthetic."


Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune,1,2259629.story


iVillage Member
Registered: 05-06-2007
Tue, 07-31-2007 - 4:39pm

Can someone explain why people are going to waste their time picketing or whatever when it says right in the article that "...the majority of patients come to Planned Parenthood for birth control, testing for gynecological cancers or screening for sexually transmitted diseases..."?

And what do they hope to gain by protesting? So they change one woman's mind? What if they change it and both the woman and the child are homeless, abused, starving, the child is unloved, not taken care of, etc. etc? How proud will PLers be then? Why do they care more about a z/e/f when it's inside of a woman and then don't follow up or care at all once it's here? Why is it more important in *someone's else's* uterus, than when it is living on it's own?

Sorry, just had to get that out.

melissajune21.jpg picture by ambersspace


iVillage Member
Registered: 05-11-2005
Tue, 07-31-2007 - 4:48pm
I just hope that it doesn't send out the message that PP are ashamed of themselves or that abortion is something to be ashamed of.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-06-2005
Tue, 07-31-2007 - 5:11pm

Well, we can't have low-income women receiving reproductive health services, can we now? It's better that they have no access to birth control so there's lots more unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, and that they die of cervical cancer because they can't get pap smears.

Jeez, some of these anti-abortion people don't seem too bright.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-03-2007
Tue, 07-31-2007 - 6:03pm
I think it sends the message that these clinics are fiercely protective of their patients' safety and privacy and rights.
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-14-2003
Tue, 07-31-2007 - 6:12pm
I agree, and I applaud PP's efforts to bring comprehensive health care to an area that clearly demonstrates the need for access for women.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-11-2005
Wed, 08-01-2007 - 5:46am
Don't get me wrong, i think its great that the community now have such a centre once more. I just think its awful that PP were held to ransom by pro life contractors.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2005
Wed, 08-01-2007 - 8:18am

I'm not so sure that is their reason. If they are concerned about low income women getting the health care that they need, why not build the clinic in a low income area instead of in one that is very wealthy?

It's also interesting to note that this new clinic is just about 4 miles from their other facility.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2005
Wed, 08-01-2007 - 8:20am
How do you come to that conclusion? There are no patients at the facility to protect until the building is finished. How does disguising the name during construction protect their safety, privacy and rights?
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-14-2003
Wed, 08-01-2007 - 8:50am

It protects their safety, privacy and rights by enabling a new facility in which to service women and teens.

WRT your earlier post to me, I disagree. They did their homework and decided that it was a good area in which to place a new facility with better access by women in different social classes.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2005
Wed, 08-01-2007 - 9:14am

So they weren't concerned about protecting their safety, privacy and rights when they built the other facility just a few years ago?

Again, I disagree. I am very familiar with this area and know that it is not in a low income area but one that is very wealthy with very limited public transportation. If they wanted to serve the low-income population, why not build a facility in the west side of Aurora where the low-income population would be able to access it?

DuPage County(where this clinic is being built) is one of the richest counties in the US.