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Illinois appellate court keeps alive challenge to Aurora Planned Parenthood facility

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CHICAGO — An Illinois appellate court has ruled a lower court made a mistake when it dismissed a lawsuit challenging the opening of a suburban Chicago Planned Parenthood facility, keeping alive an 8-year-old dispute.

The 2nd District Appellate Court's ruling Friday sends the case back to DuPage County Circuit Court for reconsideration of whether the Planned Parenthood clinic violates zoning law in Aurora.

But the appeals court said questions of whether Planned Parenthood misled city officials are irrelevant, despite the plaintiffs' claims.

"Any alleged fraud, misrepresentations, or irregularities in the approval process are irrelevant at this point," the ruling said. "The issue is whether Planned Parenthood's ongoing use of the property violates the (zoning ordinance) because it does not fall within the approved use as a medical office building or clinic."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of local residents by the Thomas More Society, a not-for-profit law firm focused on anti-abortion and religious causes. The organization called the ruling a victory and said the city's zoning code requires the site to be used only by for-profit businesses. Planned Parenthood operates as a not-for-profit organization.

"Planned Parenthood built its abortion facility in Aurora under false pretenses and in blatant violation of the strictures of Aurora's zoning code, which require a tax-paying for-profit use on that site," said Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois CEO Carole Brite said in a statement Tuesday that the organization is pleased the court limited the case to a "very narrow and administrative issue concerning zoning interpretation."

More than 90 percent of services the agency provides are preventive health services such as cancer screenings, birth control services and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, Brite said. The Aurora clinic, which opened in October 2007, provides health care to more than 9,000 people annually.

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