LAKE FOREST — An anti-abortion campaign by an Ohio organization aimed at Lake Forest-based Stericycle’s business relationship with Planned Parenthood, and the company’s CEO, Charles Alutto of Lake Forest, came to an abrupt halt three days after it became public on the streets of the city.
Stericycle and Alutto sued the group, Created Equal PAC and its executive director, Mark Harrington, on March 31 on several grounds and simultaneously asked Lake County Circuit Court Judge Margaret Marcoullier to put an immediate stop to the defendants’ activities.
Created Equal and Harrington agreed to suspend their campaign against Stericycle and Alutto on April 1 until Marcoullier rules on the plaintiff’s request for a temporary restraining order against the defendants, according to an agreed order filed in court April 1.
Marcoullier will listen to arguments from Stericycle, Alutto, Created Equal and Harrington at 9 a.m. April 11 at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan to decide if the anti-abortion campaign can continue or must remain suspended until the lawsuit is resolved.
Besides trying to permanently stop the campaign, Stericycle and Alutto want financial compensation because Created Equal and Harrington sent people to Alutto’s home and other nearby residents containing “a photo of Mr. Alutto along with his name, home address and business telephone number side by side with graphic images of mutilated fetuses,” according to the complaint filed with the court.
Among Stericycle’s business activities is the disposal of regulated medical waste, according to information given to Daily North Shore March 30 by Jennifer Koenig, the company’s vice president of corporate communications.
Daily North Shore’s March 30 story reported that Created Equal and Harrington said Stericycle disposed of aborted fetuses for its customer in Ohio, Planned Parenthood. Koenig said company policy does not allow the disposal of fetuses.
The campaign began in February when Harrington wrote to Alutto asking Stericycle to stop doing business with Planned Parenthood, according to a document provided by its spokesperson, Tom Ciesielka.
The campaign escalated March 29 and 30 when people affiliated with Created Equal began distributing post cards with Alutto’s personal information and images of aborted fetuses. Recipients complained to police but Lake Forest Deputy Police Chief Karl Walldorf said at the time the distributors were not breaking any laws.
Created Equal and Harrington contend the lawsuit is an attempt to stifle their rights to free speech, according to a document Ciesielka said was filed with the court.
“This lawsuit seeks to silence speech and leafleting protected under the First Amendment,” the defendants wrote in one of their court filings. “The dispute before the court implicates the robust nationwide debate over abortion, specifically whether Stericycle … should do business with Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.”
Harrington and Created equal contend the constitution prevents Stericycle and Alutto “from shutting down that debate and enjoining peaceful leafleting and speech,” according to the court document.
Any reply Stericycle and Alutto may have to the free speech arguments was not filed with the court as of April 9, according to the Lake County Court Clerk’s website.
Created Equal and Harrington have also asked Marcoullier to dismiss the case.