A federal court declared a city of Elgin zoning code unconstitutional Thursday after city officials used it to shut down access to free pregnancy information and services offered to young women through a mobile ultrasound facility.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys together with lead attorneys with the Chicago firm Mauck & Baker, LLC, represent Life Center, which operates the mobile facility under the name of TLC Pregnancy Services.
“Government officials shouldn’t waste taxpayer money to restrict the access young women have to free pregnancy services,” said Mauck & Baker attorney Noel W. Sterett, one of nearly 2,300 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom. “The court has done what is best for pregnant women and their unborn babies who benefit from TLC’s free services. This zoning law appears to have had no purpose other than to unconstitutionally block those services to the detriment of the women of Elgin and the surrounding area.”
In March, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, issued a temporary restraining order against the restrictions in Life Center v. City of Elgin. The order allowed TLC to bring its mobile pregnancy service center back to its usual positions at the Evangelical Covenant Church of Elgin and JB’s Pub & Bar, both in close proximity to Elgin Larkin High School. The new injunction issued by the court makes the order permanent.
“Women deserve access to the help they need for themselves and their unborn children without undue interference from the government,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “The court was right to stop the city of Elgin from preventing women in need from obtaining free ultrasounds and health information. Life Center’s free services help both the city and its citizens, so the city’s actions have been both counterproductive and unconstitutional.”
In its opinion, the court wrote, “[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. 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.”
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In the summer of 2012, Elgin moved to shut down TLC’s mobile facility for the rest of the year at both of its locations. At the time, the Elgin chief of police said that a city councilperson had driven by and described the mobile facility as an “eyesore.” Upon further investigation, TLC discovered that the city council had just amended its zoning code in a way that classified the mobile facility as a “temporary land use” limited to only four uses per year at each location.
Sterett noted that the latest court order underscores the paramount interest women have to be fully informed with regard to their pregnancies: “On the heels of the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent unanimous decision in the Hope Clinic case that affirmed the Illinois Parental Notice Act, the law appears to be clarifying that the welfare of young, pregnant women and their right to be fully informed in their pregnancy decisions prevails.”