Pro-life advocates won major concessions from the city of Aurora to continue their pro-life witness and sidewalk counseling outside a Planned Parenthood facility, thus concluding their two year fight for their First Amendment rights.
Attorneys for the Thomas More Society, representing Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood and the Pro-Life Action League, successfully settled with the city in federal court in Chicago on Thursday, voluntarily dismissing their First Amendment lawsuit filed in 2007 to protect the rights of citizens who pray and protest at the city’s Planned Parenthood facility, one of the largest abortion clinics in the United States.
“This settlement signals a successful end to our lawsuit, brought to protect the rights of those who pray and protest at abortion facilities in the City of Aurora,” said Peter Breen, Executive Director of the Thomas More Society. “Early on, Judge Virginia Kendall expressed her hope that the parties would reach an agreement that could serve as a model for the rest of the country. We believe this settlement agreement will become such a model.”
Under the settlement’s agreements, the City of Aurora will amend two ordinances that the law firm claimed were unconstitutional, and mandate First Amendment and non-discriminatory law enforcement training for Aurora police. The settlement also establishes a grievance process to handle disputes between the protesters and Aurora officials.
The settlement guarantees that any street signs prohibiting “picketing or protesting” will be removed from the city. Pro-life individuals are guaranteed the right to use public sidewalks and parkways for peaceful prayer and protest.
Although graphic signs, such as those of aborted unborn children, may be used in demonstrations, the agreement allows them under the condition that appropriate warning signs are first displayed to notify passers-by.
Also pro-life advocates who use the private access road near the Planned Parenthood will not be arrested, except in circumstances where the property owner asks police to intervene and where persons have any serious criminal history. Otherwise the city will deem the incidents ordinance violations that are to be worked out through the new grievance process.
The city will also take necessary steps to help construct a public sidewalk along the access road for pedestrians.
Should the city construct cameras for police surveillance in Aurora, the city will also set up a high-resolution camera to record all activities near the Planned Parenthood facility.