On abortion in Aurora
I've been following from afar the efforts of Planned Parenthood to open a clinic on the far east side of Aurora, Illinois. In part because I just generally care and because feministe has had good coverage of it. But mostly, it's because I went to middle school and high school in Aurora and my mom and step-dad still live there.
Yesterday, a judge ruled that the clinic cannot open. Steve Trombley, of PP/Chicago Area issued a statement, explaining where the situation stands:
Today’s ruling by Judge Norgle means that Planned Parenthood will be back in court to present additional material, facts and information that substantiate our request for an injunction to open our Aurora Health Center. Unfortunately today’s ruling means that, yet again, we will have to reschedule appointments for our patients. ...
We anticipate being back in court shortly, and as per the judge’s recommendation, we intend to amend our complaint. Judge Norgle’s ruling was very narrow in its scope and he encouraged us to amend our filing and represent our case. In his words, “This case is far from over.”
I am, of course, deeply disappointed. Aurora has been without a clinic that provides abortions (among other services) for a few years since the last OB/GYN who provided them retired. (I went to church with the guy and a number of his staff members. In the 1990s, we saw huge protests around his clinic. I also knew a lot of the people who would escort women through those hostile throngs. There's something rather humbling knowing that people you take communion with have faced angry mobs throwing things at them just to help women get good health care). The last clinic was a private practice, so Aurora's really never had affordable health care in this regard.
Ann at feministing has commented fairly thoroughly on the case and its prospects. She wrote:
At today's hearing the city attorney also said, "The city of Aurora's image is important." Which, I think, is so revealing -- I'm struck by the class angle to all of this. The new clinic is "tucked between a supermarket, a Blockbuster Video, and a cluster of upscale homes" in the suburbs. It's clear that this is not just about opposing abortions in general. It's that some residents don't like the idea of abortion (and contraception) being available down the street from their McMansions. It's the attitude that abortion is an icky thing, best left to the seedy parts of town. I know the serious anti-choice crazies are going to come protest no matter what, but I really wonder if there would be any local opposition to this clinic if it was opening between a liquor store and a Popeye's on a strip in the bad part of town. My guess is no.
Aurora is a strange town. It's the second largest city in Illinois, but it's also a suburb of Chicago. The clinic's location is in the wealthiest area -- certainly, it's got a suburban atmosphere. The location is also near the public high school that we had to drive past to get to the mall -- I had friends who every time we drove past it would shout, "it's a mall ... with desks."
Aurora is also a rather conservative town -- Dennis Hastert is the representative for the area (okay, that just confirms that the district is conservative ... but still). Aurora also has a substantial Catholic population -- and a large push behind the current protests came from the Catholic church near the clinic's location. So, I think that no matter where PP tries to open a clinic in the city, the protests will be huge. But I think Ann's absoltely correct in pointing to the class-dynamics in this situation.
On the one hand, this area of the city is incredibly wealthy -- on the other hand, much of the rest of Aurora has some startling problems with poverty. At one point, in the late 90s, a community in the wealthy area tried to claim that they lived not in Aurora, but in Naperville, the more upscale suburb to the east. The mayor's response was to cut off their water: the community backed off the claim and admitted that they lived in Aurora. I lived on the west side of the city and went Aurora West High School. At cross-country meets, runners from other suburban high schools tended to avoid us. More than one classmate died as a result of gang violence. There are nice neighborhoods throughout the city -- and in most of the places, they tend to coexist with the not-so-nice neighborhoods.
One commenter from feministing has me remembering more than I want to about the city:
I found this amusing: At today's hearing the city attorney also said, "The city of Aurora's image is important."
Isn't Aurora famous for being the home of Wayne's World? Party time. Excellent.
(Or am I just old?)
Ah ... this brings me back to college when everyone asked the same question. Sadly, we did hang out in a friend's basement with great regularity. At least we weren't filming it.