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Naperville City Council approves controversial fertility clinic

Dawn Cieslak speaks Tuesday support proposed vitro fertilizatisurgery center Tuesday during meeting Naperville City Council. Cieslak's daughter Lexi 6 was

Dawn Cieslak speaks Tuesday in support of a proposed in vitro fertilization and surgery center Tuesday during a meeting of the Naperville City Council. Cieslak's daughter Lexi, 6 was conceived via IVF.

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Updated: May 5, 2012 8:21AM

Emotions ran high Tuesday as Naperville City Council approved a plan for a fertility clinic.

By a 7 to 2 vote, with Councilmen Paul Hinterlong and Bob Fieseler dissenting, the City Council settled an issue that has divided the city over the past few weeks.

Dr. Randy Morris spoke in defense of his proposed facility on the corner of Benton Avenue and Washington Street downtown.

Morris characterized the opposition as a “small and noisy group” of people who, despite claiming to be bothered by zoning issues involved, were really driven by religious objections and having the clinic so close to a school.

He said the opposition was driven by a group that had a disagreement with others as to whether life begins at conception.

“These are the real objections to this project,” he said.

Councilman Joe McElroy took exception to what he considered a theology seminar from Morris, saying he was “very disappointed with you taking this approach,” and clarifying with city legal staff that the matter before the council was whether the plan for the clinic should be approved.

One woman took offense at McElroy’s comments and said she was walking out of the meeting.

More than 50 people signed up to speak, some of them with children conceived with Morris’ help and wearing blue T-shirts with “I support the Naperville Fertility Center” on the back.

The majority of speakers were in favor of the clinic, but the opposition was also present at the meeting.

The Rev. Thomas Milota of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Parish took exception to what he said were Morris’ characterizations of the opposition as “religious fanatics and scary” and said that while he did not judge those in favor of the clinic, he believed that every human life had dignity.

Eric Sheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League, and Councilwoman Judith Brodhead had an angry exchange, when Brodhead objected to his promise that there would be demonstrations against the clinic.

“To me it does sound like a threat,” she said, and said that the situation was not in any way comparable to the abortion clinic he was noted for protesting against in Aurora.

But many still questioned the wisdom of locating the clinic at a gateway to downtown, including Chuck Schlabach, who said that he had previously asked if there was another location in Naperville that would suit the same purpose.

“I’m still waiting for that answer,” he said.

Council members had questions about traffic and zoning issues.

“It certainly not going to help the traffic there,” Fieseler said, a reference to what he feared would be protests at a site located on a busy downtown corner.

For some, the issue remains highly emotional.

“Everybody has a right to quality heath care in their own community,” Naperville resident Cathie Garoufalis said. “It’s that simple.”

The Rev. Melissa Bills spoke of her troubles conceiving, saying, “the people (in opposition) did not speak for all Christians” and urged the council to only consider the land use issues in the case.

Jennifer Bergeron agreed, saying of her two daughters: “They were not manufactured. They were conceived by me and my husband with help from Dr. Morris.”

Crest Hill resident Carolyn Martino held 19-month old Alexander, whom she conceived with Morris’ help.

“It’s extremely emotional,” she said. “I felt very strongly about being a mother and I would not be the same person without him.

“My family’s life would be totally different.”

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