The city of Aurora, Illinois has settled a lawsuit alleging it violated the First Amendment rights of protesters of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Protesters had complained of conflicting legal advice from city officials and threats of mass arrests from the local police chief.
At one protest in 2007, police arrived on the scene with an armored paddy wagon and constant video surveillance, which protesters said was intimidating.
The settlement requires the city to amend two ordinances claimed to be unconstitutional, mandates First Amendment training for city police and establishes a grievance process to handle disputes between protesters and city officials, a press release from the Chicago-based Thomas More Society reports.
The Planned Parenthood facility opened in 2007 after covertly gaining approval for construction under the subsidiary name Gemini Office Development. It attracted over 1,000 protesters after citizens learned the building presented as an office complex was in fact an abortion clinic.
Peter Breen, Executive Director of the Thomas More Society, said the settlement signals a “successful end” to the lawsuit intended to protect the rights of those who pray at protest at abortion facilities in the city.
The provisions of the settlement require the removal of signs barring any “picketing or protesting.” The settlement establishes protections for pro-life individuals to use public sidewalks and parkways. It also bars the arrests of protesters who use the private access road near the facility. They will not be arrested without a property owner’s direction.
For the sake of public safety, the city will take necessary steps to ensure a public sidewalk is constructed along the access road.
Signs with graphic content may be used in demonstrations, with appropriate warning signs displayed to alert passersby.
“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,” Breen continued. “We believe this settlement agreement will become such a model.”