April 12, 2016; Daily Herald (Chicago, IL)

It’s an interesting tactic to target the vendors of a nonprofit to isolate and interfere with its operations, but it’s one that has been successful for those who oppose the death penalty, as pharmaceutical companies felt pressure to stop providing the drug compounds for lethal injections. So, it may be no surprise that it is occurring elsewhere.

Earlier this week, a judge in Lake County, Illinois rejected a restraining order requested against an abortion-opposition advocacy group, Created Equal, that has been creating and distributing literature against executives at Stericycle, a medical waste company.

The Created Equal campaign is demanding that Stericycle end its partnership with Planned Parenthood, claiming that its disposal of Planned Parenthood’s medical waste, including aborted fetuses, enables the organization to carry out abortions. The campaign included the creation of graphic and disturbing material that contained the Stericycle CEO’s picture, home address, and other personal details, with a call to action to demand the cessation of the company’s national partnership. In response, Stericycle filed a civil suit against the pro-life group, of which the denied restraining order was a part, citing “an unlawful campaign of harassment, intimidation, and invasion of privacy.”

Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides a spectrum of women’s health services, including abortions, has been fighting a national battle since last year to maintain its funding and services in the midst of a polarizing political climate and election year. Many of the disputes are happening at the state level, in Texas, Alabama, New Hampshire, Arizona and, most recently, Ohio.

The campaign against Stericycle was prompted in part by an investigation conducted by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who targeted the operations of the Planned Parenthood sites in the state that conduct abortions. In February, Governor John Kasich signed a bill to defund the organization across the state, effectively cutting off $1 million in funding to the overall women’s health services it provides. In a memo summarizing DeWine’s findings, he named Stericycle and Accu-Medical as two facilities that enabled the disposal of aborted fetuses. The report also named PNC Bank and Chase Bank, among others, as financial partners of Planned Parenthood.

Judge Margaret Marcouiller, the Lake County judge who rejected the restraining order, warned that the campaign could create damages in the future and encouraged Stericycle and Created Equal to work together.

“This is an expression of speech that, arguably, could create damages down the road,” she said. “I want to emphasize that both sides should meet and come to an agreed-upon resolution.”—Danielle Holly