A state judge in Illinois has given the billion-dollar Planned Parenthood corporation “a license to lie,” according to pro-life activists incorrectly accused by the company of having a “well-documented history of advocating violence against both persons and property.”
The ruling, which dismissed parts of a libel action brought by the activists, came from Judge Judith Brawka, who interpreted the published accusations by Planned Parenthood and its executive, Steve Trombley, against the citizens opposing a new abortion mega-clinic in Aurora, Ill., as protected under the state’s Citizen Protection Act.
The allegations were found in several locations, including an ad in the Aurora Beacon News that was headlined “Don’t Let the Extremists Deny Vital Health Care to the People of Peoria,” and it warned “Joe Scheidler and his Pro-Life Action League have a well-documented history of advocating violence against both persons and property, as well as other related criminal activity.”
Lawyers with theThomas More Society of Chicago sued over the claims, saying they apparently were drawn from an old court case against Scheidler and the League brought by the National Organization for Women on behalf of abortion clinics nationwide.
But any accusation in that case later was turned into a “legal nullity,” Brejcha told WND, because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions to reject the claims on votes of 8-1, and 8-0.
As WND reported, Brejcha earlier demanded a retraction from Planned Parenthood and Trombley. Instead Trombley repeated them.
“He stood up 5 feet away from me in the lobby of the federal building and repeated these outrageous lies,” Brejcha said.
The unsuccessful NOW case essentially accused pro-lifers of using organized crime tactics against clinics.
WND reported in 2006 that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled for the third time in favor of pro-life activists who were sued by NOW over their aggressive demonstrations at abortion clinics under the federal RICO organized crime statute.
In 2003, WND reported NOW had lost its second round in the Supreme Court in a decisive 8-1 ruling. The feminist group charged that protests organized by Scheidler’s Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League amounted to extortion under RICO.
However, Planned Parenthood argued in the current libel action brought on behalf of the pro-life organization and its members that under the state’s Citizen Participation Act the billion-dollar tax-subsidized corporation had “absolute immunity” because it made the statements “in furtherance of the constitutional rights to petition, speech, association, and participation in government” and those carry immunity from liability “regardless of intent or purpose.”
“Planned Parenthood has been granted a license to lie,” said Eric Scheidler, the son of Joe Scheidler and the communications director for the Pro-Life Action League. He’s among the Aurora, Ill., residents who brought the libel suit.
“This ruling gives Planned Parenthood, and any other organization with deep pockets, total immunity for making false, defamatory statements against private citizens,” he said.
The Aurora residents have opposed the abortion mega-clinic that was built by Planned Parenthood using a front company so that residents would not realize what was being constructed.
According to officials with PLAN, the state’s Citizen Participation Act was established in 2007 to protect small grass-roots organizations lobbying for government action from large corporations who want to scare them into silence with the threat of costly lawsuits.
But PLAN said in this case, it’s the billion-dollar company, Planned Parenthood, that is alleging it is intimidated by the small group of city residents who oppose its abortion business.
“Because the ad [Planned Parenthood] ran contained a line urging readers to call their local alderman in support of the new clinic, Judge Judith Brawka interpreted it and the letter to city council as being protected,” PLAN said.
“The judge didn’t decide Steve Trombley is innocent of libeling us, but that it didn’t matter even if he were guilty,” said Scheidler.
The judge is allowing Scheidler to file an amended complaint based on four specific items in which Planned Parenthood made similar statements and did not include the appeal for government action, and PLAN said it is possible under the judge’s interpretation they may not be protected.
Scheidler also said an appeal was being considered.
“Illinois lawmakers drafted the Citizen Participation Act to protect people’s freedom to speak their minds, not to keep citizens from defending their good names,” said Scheidler. “If this ruling stands, anyone can spread deliberate, malicious lies about another person, as long as their statements can be construed as seeking action from any unit of government, including voters. That should scare all Illinoisans who care about honesty and accountability.”
Scheidler said he could be forced to pay all of Planned Parenthood’s legal costs associated with the libel suit, which he estimates could be more than $50,000. That would mean bankruptcy for him and his family, but he said that’s a price he’s willing to pay.
“No matter what lies Steve Trombley and Planned Parenthood may tell about us, pro-lifers in Aurora are peacefully saving babies from abortion at Planned Parenthood every week,” he said.
The next hearing on the four remaining counts is scheduled in October.
PLAN was launched by Joseph Scheidler in 1980 with the aim of saving unborn children through non-violent direct action. Through prayer vigils outside abortion facilities and sidewalk counseling, the League reaches out to abortion- bound women and couples with abortion alternatives, confidential counseling and access to pregnancy resources.
As WND has reported, the same mega-clinic also is being targeted by other action alleging city officials violated their own zoning codes in allowing the construction project to move forward.
The Thomas More Society said it has filed formal appeals to both the Aurora Building Code Board of Appeals and the Zoning Board of Appeals on behalf of Fox Valley Families against Planned Parenthood.
“The appellants claim that the city continues to refuse to apply the correct ordinance to Planned Parenthood, even after the city conceded that its outside attorneys applied the wrong ordinance to the facility during their legal review in September of last year,” the law firm announcement said.
The situation also has been clouded by reports Planned Parenthood’s subsidiary, Gemini Office Development (GOD), falsified permit applications, obtained an invalid building permit, had invalid building inspections, and violated other city laws during the construction process.