When Planned Parenthood moves in next door
Illinois pro-lifers cope with the abortion giant’s unexpected expansion
About a year ago, Elizabeth Jones and her husband, George, pastor at Family Life Church in Waukegan, Ill., received a phone call from a church member. He asked if they knew that Planned Parenthood converted a local bank building into an abortion facility. The Joneses didn’t know, and neither did much of the community.
The center opened just after Mother’s Day.
Jones, 64, has supported pro-life efforts such as local crisis pregnancy centers throughout her life. “We’ve been fighting all along, we’ve been praying, we’ve been doing what we’re able to do, but the battle rages on,” she said. After the phone call about the Waukegan Planned Parenthood, Jones thought, “The battle’s closer to home now.”
A year later, area pro-lifers have regrouped from the surprise of having a Planned Parenthood in their neighborhood and the challenges of responding to it during the pandemic. The abortion giant has quietly opened two centers in Illinois since October 2019, including the location in Waukegan.
“They seem to be planting them strategically,” said Amy Kirch, who lives near Waukegan and works with Sidewalk Advocates for Life. Waukegan’s population is majority working-class and economically depressed. Planned Parenthood has built some abortion centers close to state borders, taking advantage of Illinois’ lax abortion laws while also potentially profiting from clients from states such as Missouri with more protection for unborn babies.
Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, says the problem is still a lack of facts. “We don’t know how many women are coming from out of state and how old they are,” he says. Pro-Life Action League believes Planned Parenthood might be considering more Illinois locations, so his group has made open records requests to try to get more information.
Doug Carlson is president of the board of directors at the Family Resource Center of Zion, a pregnancy resource center about five miles from the Waukegan Planned Parenthood. He said the abortion center’s opening surprised local officials as much as it did pro-lifers. “You should work with the community, not against them,” he said.
As Planned Parenthood opened centers during a pandemic, other businesses in Illinois struggled to stay open. Pro-Life Action League learned last July that Planned Parenthood of Illinois received $3.8 million from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
On May 11, 80-100 people attended a vigil hosted by the Pro-Life Action League for the one-year anniversary of the Waukegan abortion center’s opening.
“That is the first abortion center in our county ever,” said Kirch, who spoke at the vigil. “I think there’s a lot of people hoping to make a change.”
After the Waukegan Planned Parenthood opened, Jones and a few others started a prayer campaign and sent out monthly emails with suggested prayer requests. About 25 people from multiple churches receive the emails, and their goal is to have someone pray for the facility during all open hours.
Three other women, all of them in their 30s with full-time jobs, join her for monthly Zoom meetings to decide on prayer requests for each email.
“Their lives are very full already, but they still are just so motivated and concerned, burdened, passionate,” she says. “When bad things happen, our first response should be remembering that this is a spiritual battle that we’re living in.”
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