Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why Aurora Matters

Aurora, Illinois is a big-ish small town -west of Chicago and east of where I used to live. It's substantially more urban than my home town and more diverse ethnically and socio-economically. And Planned Parenthood is trying to open a facility there. Pro-life activists have staged fairly significant (by the standards of the times we live in) protests, and today a judge denied Planned Parenthood's petition for an emergency injunction, which would have allowed it to open.

Nobody's winning any prizes for "excellent reasoning in the face of passion", but the religious right is outdoing itself with absurdity. The fact is, Planned Parenthood did attempt to hide the fact that they were opening in Aurora. Of course they did. They did that to ensure that the law was followed, not to subvert the law. It is well-known that the religious right will mobilize its troops to personally harass construction workers, construction company owners (sometimes even at their homes and businesses), clog the neighborhoods with canvassers and protesters, and generally spread ill will and fear. Which of course is their stock in trade, and does sometimes "work" from their point of view -stopping or postponing construction of facilities that will offer abortion services.

And a prolife city council member wondered why Planned Parenthood would want to build its facility so close to a residential neighborhood. After all, he muses, they build these centers with bullet proof glass and bring in security staff. They must know they're dangerous to the community. Now seriously... can he mean that??? They are in danger FROM the community. It was a priest from Rochelle (not far from Aurora) who drove his car into an abortion facility and then started hacking away at it with an axe. Women have to be escorted into facilities around the country because they experience so much harassment -from community members- as they try to enter to receive fully-legal services. Security threats are routine in Planned Parenthood clinics around the country. I imagine (but don't know) that there were several today. It's hard to argue with any credibility that the community is in danger. It seems, rather, to be the other way around.

Where, one wonders, does a little town (or a big one) lose its right to determine its little-town character? There can be lobbying for more green space. Or less. More development. Or less. Quirky liquor laws or none at all. But, can a community really keep out fully-legal medical services, without bending existing laws completely out of shape? Go a little further. What's going on today in Jena, Lousiana is in part because there is apparently no law against hanging a noose in a tree. Freedom of expression is pretty important, after all. But intimidation -which was surely the intent of that expression- perhaps goes to far. Or not. Of course the Jena situation is bigger than I'm implying here. I do see that.

But the Aurora situation isn't small either. People are being denied legal medical services -most of which have nothing whatever to do with abortion. And the disturbing parallels lead me to believe that small towns reflect quite a lot about our national character.


Lisa :-] said...

Just this morning, I was having some thoughts about "pro-lifers," who aren't pro-life at all, in the end. They are pro-fetus. But that's a whole different story. About which I think I'm going to write a post..right now.

Sharon said...

Andrea, I've been in Aurora (my MIL's family was from there) -- it needs a lot of help -- the economy seems to be pretty shattered and the standard of living is not high.

They really need medical service points. But there is this dark cloud of resistance in, yes, small towns. Big towns don't do so well sometimes either.