An anti-abortion group and an Illinois city traded news releases March 8th over a federal lawsuit the group has filed against the city. The anti-abortion group, known asThe Life Center (TLC) claims the city ofElgin’s zoning ordinances are unconstitutional and that they deny pregnancy services to local women. The city says these claims and the related federal lawsuit are “as misleading as they are disappointing.”
“The matter at hand is actually fairly straightforward,” said the City in its news release. “The city’s zoning regulations at issue involve the regulation of temporary uses which are typically regulated by most communities.
The crux of the dispute centers on limitations the city has placed on businesses and organizations operating regularly and indefinitely while claiming temporary status. The Life Center provides faith-based anti-abortion counseling out of a recreational vehicle under the name TLC Pregnancy Services. Without advertising itself as a religious organization, TLC attracts young women in crisis by offering free ultrasounds and pregnancy diagnoses out of the vehicle, which TLC parks on borrowed lots close to a local high school.
Under new zoning ordinances passed last summer, TLC and other temporary businesses can still legally operate as often and as regularly as they wish. They are limited to sixty days per year at a single location, however. Such a group can use one location up to four times per year for as long as fifteen days per use.
While TLC’s lawsuit claims the RV-based ultrasounds are a religious ministry exempt from such limitations, the organization’s news release appeals to public outrage over an infringement of women’s rights. It describes TLC simply as “a mobile ultrasound provider.”
“Why should young women in Elgin, who may have nowhere else to turn, be deprived of free medical services and support?” said attorney Noel W. Sterett. His words echo claims from the many medical clinics routinely targeted for shut-down by anti-abortion groups like TLC. “Pregnancy information and support, which TLC makes accessible free of charge, are critical to young women facing an unplanned pregnancy,” Sterett continues.
“We want to support and empower these young women by allowing them to see their babies through ultrasound images and help them make informed decisions regarding their pregnancy,” said TLC’s Executive Director Vivian Maly.
“Empower” is also an abstinence education program promoted by TLC.
In its news release responding to the suit, the City of Elgin said, “Instead of complying with the city’s zoning ordinance and applying for a permit that the City of Elgin stands ready and willing to issue, TLC and its attorneys have chosen to file a lawsuit and issue public statements which misrepresent the city’s zoning regulations and the actions taken by the city.”