A state court judge in Illinois has dismissed permanently most of the claims by the massive waste hauler Stericycle against a grass-roots pro-life campaign against abortion.
The ruling in Lake County, Illinois, Circuit Court came in a lawsuit brought by Stericycle and its executive, Charles Alutto, against the Created Equal PAC, pro-life activist Mark Harrington and others.
They had launched a campaign to publicize the claim that Stericycle facilitated abortions in the area by providing disposal services to the local Planned Parenthood abortion business.
Without that disposal service, the campaign explained, Planned Parenthood would have to be closing down its operations.
Now Judge Margaret A. Marcouiller has dismissed claims of defamation and false light invasion of privacy permanently, and dismissed a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, but did say that claim could be refiled if the plaintiffs met the standards she set in her ruling.
Officials said Created Equal and Harrington as well as unnamed “John Doe” defendants 1-100 were sued for having launched an awareness campaign against Stericycle.
They claimed that was the “weak link” enabling Planned Parenthood, to “dispose of the babies they kill.”
It was launched after the state of Ohio identified a Planned Parenthood business, whose medical waste was handled by Stericycle, as the source of fetal remains illegally dumped at a landfill.
“This latest dismissal of Stericycle’s lawsuit constitutes another signal victory for free speech on the part of ordinary citizens,” said Tom Brejcha, president the Thomas More Society, which worked on the case.
“The court recognized that no business is immune from public criticism of practices that citizens deem profoundly objectionable on moral or legal grounds,” he said.
“Those companies like Stericycle that partner with the abortion industry are not exempt from critiques even when – as in this case – the critiques have been scathing and vigorous.”
In a statement released by the Thomas More Society, Harrington said he felt vindicated.
“Pro-life free speech and the rule of law prevailed today. Corporate bullies like Stericycle are not immune from exposure for their involvement in abortion-killing. If Stericycle is really concerned about the impact of our publicity campaign on its public image, then it will cease enabling Planned Parenthood to transport and dispose of aborted babies’ remains together with the instruments used to kill them. If Stericycle and its CEO and other officials continue to partner with the abortion industry, the campaign to expose and shame them will continue.”
The campaign included graphic handbills distributed near Stericycle’s offices and near where Alutti lives, phone calls, emails and more.
The handbills pictured the remains of babies and the slogans “Killers among us.”
Postcards also were sent to many homes.
Marcouiller ruled that the wanted-poster type of information was opinion, and was not defamatory. Nor can they depict anyone in a false light.
WND had reported back in April when the medical waste handling company demanded in court that its critics be silenced.
The judge noted that the company has been in the process of discontinuing doing business with customers who refuse to certify that they will comply with Stericycle’s ban on the disposal of fetuses as medical waste.
“After Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a report in December of 2015 that identified a Planned Parenthood location in Ohio that used only Stericycle to dispose of its aborted fetuses, Stericycle renewed its efforts to ensure that its customers had certified that they would not use Stericycle for that purpose.
“In total, as of the date of the filing of the amended complaint, Stericycle has ended business relationshpis with over 400 customers who did not return the requested certification, including the Planned Parenthood location identified by Attorney General DeWine,” the judge said.