ELGIN CITY, Ill. — Officials in Elgin City, Illinois have appealed a court ruling declaring that the municipality can’t use a local zoning ordinance to thwart the efforts of a free mobile ultrasound unit to “save the lives of unborn children.”
As previously reported, in March of this year, TLC Pregnancy Services, run by The Life Center, Inc. (TLC), filed a lawsuit against the City of Elgin for forcing the pro-life outreach to shut down its operations following a complaint by Council Member Anna Moeller. Police Chief Jeffrey Swoboda had boarded up the mobile unit in August 2012, ordering the ultrasound technician, Jane DeFily, to “cease and desist” her activities. He explained that a council member had called the unit an “eyesore.”
Additionally, The Life Center learned that Elgin City Council had amended its zoning code so that the mobile ultrasound would be considered a “temporary land use” that could only receive a permit four times a year per location. When the pro-life outreach attempted to obtain a permit last year, it was told that the City would not issue the organization any permits for the rest of 2012. The mobile ultrasound had been parking at Evangelical Covenant Church and JB’s Bar and Pub near the Elgin high school interchangeably.
Shortly after filing the lawsuit, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, granted The Life Center a temporary injunction to continue its activities while the case moved forward in court. Earlier this month, the court made the injunction permanent, ruling that the city’s amended zoning ordinance was unconstitutional.
“The city’s code is unduly burdensome to the right of a woman to choose life,” wrote Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, nominated by George W. Bush. “It is puzzling why the city would be so unreasonable in implementing ordinances and policies that curtail not only the constitutional rights of its citizens but also the availability of needed medical care and emotional support for its vulnerable young women.”
“[I]t must be recognized that the City is preventing Life Center from being able to effectively provide pregnant women in the city with needed medical care that could identify issues and save lives of unborn children,” he continued. “Life Center has in fact provided evidence that it has helped a multitude of young women who have used the services at the mobile facility.”
However, in a news release issued on Wednesday, Elgin Corporation Counsel William Cogley advised that the city is appealing the ruling out of a belief that the judge misunderstood the facts.
“Given the nature of the ruling, the consequences to the community and the impact of the decision on the city’s ability to administer its zoning ordinance, the city has no choice but to appeal the court’s order,” he wrote.
Cogley stated that the zoning ordinance was not meant to target the mobile ultrasound unit, and that TLC can conduct their outreach elsewhere in the city without issue.
“The amendments to the city’s temporary use regulations adopted in 2012 were not specifically directed at TLC or intended to harm or hinder TLC’s mission or services to women in the community,” he outlined. “The zoning regulations apply to TLC in the same way they do for all other land uses in the city. Finally, the city’s zoning regulations do not prohibit TLC from operating its mobile ultrasound facility in the city.”
However, the Life Center remains positive and upbeat about the matter, believing that the courts will uphold the right to operate the mobile unit at its current locations.
“We are confident that at the end of the day, the welfare and rights of young women to be fully informed and have access to free pregnancy services will prevail over municipal zoning interests.” said TLC’s John W. Mauck. “Unfortunately, Elgin taxpayers are going to be paying for the City’s ongoing opposition to the rights of a charitable service that is otherwise welcomed in the community.”