Illinois Judge Upholds Counts of Planned Parenthood Engaging in Slander, Libel

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 10, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Illinois Judge Upholds Counts of Planned Parenthood Engaging in Slander, Libel

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 10
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — An Illinois judge has upheld two counts of slander and libel against Planned Parenthood in a lawsuit filed by Eric Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League. The 2007 suit says Parenthood of Illinois and its CEO Stephen Trombley engaged in defamatory, libelous and slanderous statements.

Trombley is under fire for making comments about local pro-life advocates and accusing them of advocating violence.

During the legal battle to stop the construction of a new abortion business, Trombley told one local media outlet that pro-life advocates engage in violence and that was the reason Planned Parenthood kept the new abortion center a secret for so long.

"We certainly kept the building of this facility private in an effort not to alert our opposition, who have a history of criminal behavior," Trombley said.

That and other comments had pro-life advocates upset and Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, which led the fight against the new center, filed suit.

On Wednesday, Judge Judith Brawka of Kane County Circuit Court issued a ruling holding that those counts should not be dismissed as a matter of law.

The court’s decision overruled an objection by Planned Parenthood that they were immune from suit under Illinois’ newly enacted Citizen Participation Act.

Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League insist they have no history of illegal or criminal behavior and that such claims of violence were already rejected in the 22-year-old nationwide federal class-action lawsuit, NOW vs. Scheidler.

The Supreme Court sided with the pro-life advocates twice in 2003 and 2006 with eight members of the high court backing their side.

The pro-life advocates now plan to proceed with the litigation on the two counts that survived and will appeal Judge Brawka’s ruling against other counts that were dismissed.

Brakwa dismissed several other libel counts on the rationale that even malicious lies were immunized from suit if intended to persuade government officials.

The Citizen Participation Act immunizes from suit any efforts to obtain favorable government action, but only if in furtherance of a lawful exercise of First Amendment rights. The pro-life groups say Brawka’s ruling dismissing some counts is an overbroad reading of the Act.

Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Society, who is representing the pro-life advocates, told that the ruling is “very welcome and signals that at some point in this case Planned Parenthood is going to have to come to grips with the fact that they lied."

"Those lies constituted defamatory torts for which Planned Parenthood and Mr. Trombley must be held to account to the plaintiffs, whose good name was illegally trashed for no reason and with malice aforethought," he added.

Brejcha told the Act "is not a license to lie with impunity and ruin someone’s good name for malicious reasons.”

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