Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pro-life protests help close Illinois abortion clinic

(EWTN News) A Rockford, Illinois abortion clinic that violated state health codes and was known for setting up insulting displays directed against pro-life demonstrators has closed permanently, after 40 years of operation.

Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, told EWTN News the closure is “an incredible victory” for grassroots activism.

“The key factor is that people were out there sidewalk counseling, praying, doing community outreach,” he said.

“We’re thrilled,” said Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society. “The conditions inside the clinic were just abominable … it was a clear danger to public health.”

Rockford’s Northern Illinois Women’s Center had been temporarily closed since September because of health violations. At a Jan. 5 Department of Public Health hearing, it won the right to reopen upon paying a $9,750 fine, or it could pay a $1,000 fine and give up its operating license.

All three of the clinic’s operating rooms failed to ensure a sanitary environment, the Thomas More Society said. The abortion facility also did not meet the legal requirements for a qualified registered nurse to be present in the operating room during procedures.

Doctors also lacked admitting privileges at local hospitals, possibly putting patients at risk of serious injury or death.

The clinic said it based its decision to close on a lack of support from the community, the local and national political environment surrounding the abortion issue, and the challenge the clinic would face in rebuilding its staff.

The clinic is the region’s only abortion clinic. The nearest facilities are in Madison, Wisc., 70 miles to the north or in the Chicago suburbs about 70 miles to the east.

Brejcha said the clinic’s owner had put signs and objects in the windows that were “absolutely outrageous,” including a nun doll that was pierced with a pin, a crucifix that carried a “macabre” message, a picture of Jesus Christ making obscene gestures, and rubber chickens hanging by nooses.

They were “just horrible anti-Catholic, anti-Christian symbols” that were “too outrageous to be believed,” Brejcha said.

One sign reportedly said, “You morons couldn’t close a Jack-in-the-Box,” referring to efforts to close the clinic.

Brejcha credited the resumption of inspections to a “heroic” registered nurse who examined health inspection records under Freedom of Information Act requests and contacted public health authorities about various concerns. Mold was growing outside the clinic and rats were spotted outside the clinic entrance.

“This is not an isolated case,” Brejcha said, noting a clinic in Philadelphia which maintained “horrible conditions” before it was shut down in the course of a murder investigation.

“Abortion clinics are given a pass on regulations required of other surgical centers. There’s a great need for tougher standards and tougher law enforcement,” Brejcha stated.

“The truth is that Roe v. Wade simply allowed these ‘back alley abortionists’ to move their shingles out onto Main Streets. The standards legally have been really less than those expected of veterinary clinics. This is an outrage, and ought to be stopped,” he said.

Scheidler said pro-life advocates should learn the various regulations governing local abortion facilities and determine whether the facilities in their area are following the rules. They can petition the health board to inspect the facilities to make sure they meet standards for health and certifications. They can also check to see if any facilities are involved in lawsuits.
He emphasized the clinic’s statement that community opposition was a major factor.

“The kind of activism that worked in Rockford can work in other communities around the country. Let’s take this victory and win another closure through pro-life activism.”

Though the closure is a “great pro-life victory” for children whose lives have been spared, he said, it is a “scandal” that it took so long for “a horrible place” to receive state scrutiny.

Sr. Rosalia Bauer, who had visited the clinic to hold a vigil for the past 12 years, said it was “a tremendous relief” that the clinic was closed.

“Now the women will have a choice to go to a safe environment and hopefully have more opportunity to rethink their decisions,” she told the Rockford Register Star.

She said she will now have more time for other pro-life work, such as helping families who have kept their babies or bringing free mobile ultrasound units to other places.

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