A San Antonio coalition organized to stop the opening of Planned Parenthood’s 22,000 square foot flagship abortion mega-center is crying foul. On Thursday, January 29, district judge Sol Casseb III denied a temporary injunction that would have blocked the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the abortion center at 2140 Babcock Road. The center is projected to open March 1, according to testimony by the Planned Parenthood CEO.
The hearing took an odd twist from the very beginning, when attorneys for the city of San Antonio and Planned Parenthood pointed out to Judge Renee McElhaney Yanta that San Antonio Family Association supports the lawsuit. The attorneys implied Judge Yanta should step down from the case because she previously had “liked” the Facebook page of SAFA.
Judge Yanta did indeed decide to step down. By marriage, Judge Yanta is the niece of longtime Planned Parenthood opponent Bishop John W. Yanta. Patrick Von Dohlen—who heads the San Antonio Family Association—and other observers were aghast at the idea that simply “liking” a Facebook page could lead to the recusal of a judge. While SAFA is one of the groups in the coalition fighting the Planned Parenthood abortion expansion, it is not a party to the lawsuit. The lawsuit to stop the opening of Planned Parenthood was initiated by Thelma Franco, a resident of the neighborhood adjoining the Planned Parenthood facility.
After Judge Yanta stepped down, the case was reassigned to Judge Casseb. Then came another strange twist. According to Von Dohlen, Judge Casseb showed sympathy with Mrs. Franco’s attempt to keep Planned Parenthood from opening the abortion mega-center in her neighborhood when he leaned toward her during her testimony and said that he did not blame her because he would not want Planned Parenthood in his neighborhood either. The next day the judge ruled against Mrs. Franco by denying the temporary injunction—the only thing that stood between Planned Parenthood and the certificate of occupancy it needs to move into the new abortion facility.
This scenario came in the wake of a protracted fight by San Antonio officials and four lawyers representing the city and Planned Parenthood to beat back the citizens of Dreamhill Estates, who have tried at every level of local government to keep Planned Parenthood from opening the huge abortion business in their backyards. The property is not zoned as other ambulatory surgical centers in San Antonio, yet citizens are being denied their right to oppose the zoning issues and the problems that heavy traffic will bring into their formerly quiet residential neighborhood. It is projected that an additional 28,000 vehicles will be drawn to the area because of the abortion facility. The facility will act as a regional service center for south and west Texas, targeting a highly Hispanic population and bringing girls and women from as far as Harlingen, Brownsville, and El Paso for abortions. Planned Parenthood South Texas reports that 71 percent of its "services" were provided to Hispanics, 20 percent to whites, 5 percent to blacks, and 4 percent to others in 2013.
Coalition members who were present in the courtroom say that when residents of Dreamhill Estates testified, they were treated as if, in order to determine who was moving in, they should have gone to the courthouse and inspected the records when they saw that renovation of the building was taking place.
Expecting residents to navigate through the process of finding who owns the property and for what use is beyond unreasonable—especially when you consider the fact that construction is constantly underway in that area. Even had they done so, residents would not have discovered Planned Parenthood’s involvement or intent, since it was stealthily purchased by a shell company—Delantero Investments, Ltd.—to be used as an “office.”
Residents should be able to rely on city officials to properly enforce zoning laws. Those laws exist to protect the property owners in the area. So, why, coalition members are asking, is the city of San Antonio and the justice system working against its own citizens who are trying to defend against Planned Parenthood’s unlawful intrusion into its neighborhood?
Why is it that even though the residents of Dreamhill Estates repeatedly voiced their zoning, traffic, and safety concerns at every level of city government, they received no help? Why is it that a judge who expressed solidarity with the plight of Dreamhill Estates’ residents in open court turned around and ruled against them?
With all those questions looming, coalition members report that they conducted a search of contributors to the campaigns of San Antonio’s mayor and city council members. What they found is shocking. Among the top 50 donors to the campaigns, almost $100,000 came over a two-year period from Planned Parenthood donors and, most glaringly, board members of Planned Parenthood.
“So the question is,” Von Dohlen says, “how in the world can citizens obtain justice when government officials’ palms are seemingly greased with campaign contributions?” Coalition members believe the contributions are an ethics violation at the very least, based on the city’s own ethics code. Von Dohlen points out that Planned Parenthood South Texas CEO Jeffrey Hons and its chairman Alan Kramer are on the list of top contributors, along with other board members and family members of Planned Parenthood South Texas officials.
The wrangling continues in the courtroom. On Tuesday, February 3, Mrs. Franco's attorney filed an appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Antonio. The same day, city of San Antonio attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the appeal. And on Friday, February 6, the city submitted a challenge to Mrs. Franco’s right to participate in the lawsuit because she lives more than 200 feet from the new abortion facility. It appears that city officials will fight to the bitter end to make sure Planned Parenthood gets its occupancy license—a piece of paper that amounts to a license to kill the children of San Antonio and the rest of south and west Texas.
American Life League’s Stop Planned Parenthood International project is proud to collaborate in the fight to Stop Planned Parenthood’s abortion expansion in San Antonio. Read more of our coverage on the coalition’s fight here.
Rita Diller is the national director of American Life League’s Stop Planned Parenthood International project.