Pro-Choice Advocates Press Council on Clinic Matter

During a heated public comment period at the May 21 Beverly Hills City Council meeting, more than twenty people criticized the city for its actions in connection with a proposed clinic for abortion services on Wilshire Boulevard. As the Courier has reported, those actions are the subject of a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit brought by DuPont Clinic, PC and Consultants in Obstetric and Gynecologic Ultrasonography and Surgery, PLLC (collectively “DuPont”) against the city and several city officials. DuPont alleges that the city improperly interfered with its potential business operations, resulting in a rescission of its lease and subsequent damages. 

The public comments before the council on Tuesday reflect the frustration of several advocacy groups seeking greater transparency and some concrete action on the matter. One group, bhforchoice, is pushing for an independent investigation into the city’s actions, especially its communications with vocal anti-abortion groups. Last November, with the help of the reproductive justice nonprofit The Lawyering Project, bhforchoice submitted a public records request seeking information about those communications.

Andrea Grossman, one of the group’s founders, said the documents provided by the city only raised more questions. 

“The public records dump …. indicate that there were a lot of meetings with paper trails with nothing on that paper,” Grossman told the Courier. “We need to know why they weren’t recorded, why there are no notes, why it was such a secret. If everything is kosher, why are they keeping it so secret?”   

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit have achieved some success in this same pursuit. On May 13, the judge overseeing the DuPont case ruled that the city must turn over an extensive list of personal communications about the proposed clinic from several current and former city officials. 

In response to that ruling, the city released a statement indicating that it had already released over 3,000 pages of documentation during discovery. The city, which has a pending motion to strike much of DuPont’s complaint, noted that it did not make the decision to rescind DuPont’s lease and strongly supports a woman’s right to choose. 

Mayor Lester Friedman repeated that statement at the council meeting on May 21, but did not deter the speakers from decrying actions that they claimed undermined this position. According to Grossman, more than 50 supporters attended the meeting  

“Contrary to the city’s public statement … the public records tell a different story, and we demand answers,” said Gay Abrams, another bhforchoice founder. “How did a legal reproductive health clinic get shut down before it even opened? Why were the concerns of non-resident anti-abortion extremists more important than the voices of your constituents?”   

Abrams’ concerns were echoed by representatives from advocacy groups including L.A. Guild for Reproductive Health, the Feminist Majority Foundation and Heart of L.A, Freedom for All California, as well as health care professionals. 

Dr. Kim Bader, an OB-GYN and professor emeritus at USC Keck School of Medicine, said DuPont would have offered late-term abortions, which represent only 1% of abortions performed and are difficult to access even in California, where the right to abortion is enshrined in state law.   

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, California limits abortions after the point of viability, as determined by a physician, though abortions can be performed after the point of viability if a physician determines that continuing the pregnancy could harm the woman.

As states across the county have enacted new restrictions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, women who require late-term abortions must often cross state lines, Bader said.  

“The procedure requires very special training and skills. It requires a very dedicated staff. … They do training beyond just obstetrics and gynecology, and they are committed to the needs of their patients,” Bader said. “To deny this service due to fear is reprehensible.”     

Advocates and supporters of bhforchoice spoke for approximately an hour and a half, but just before the meeting concluded, Friedman announced new public comment rules he would impose at busier meetings. 

At meetings with tight agendas, public comments will be limited to 30 minutes and two minutes per speaker before moving to the consent calendar and agenda items. After that, people will have time for additional comments, he added. No council members objected to the changes.

“I do not think it is fair to have those people who have waited as long as they have waited to have their matters on the agenda, to wait for all of the public comments,” Friedman said. 

Grossman, however, said the new rules will deter many from making their voices heard. 

“Who’s going to sit around and wait until 10 and sit through the entire council session agenda? Not many,” Grossman said. “And one voice, one person who shows up to speak, represents a lot of people who didn’t or couldn’t attend the meeting.”   

Additional business before the council on May 21 included the continuation of an appeal of a “Builder’s Remedy” application for a 19-story mixed-use development at 125-129 S. Linden Drive. Staff on Oct. 13, 2023 determined that the application was incomplete, and the applicant, 9300 Wilshire LLC, subsequently appealed that decision. This was the fourth time the applicant had requested the hearing be rescheduled, and the council unanimously agreed to continue the hearing until June 27. 

One public commenter spoke against the mixed-use proposal, which includes a 73-room hotel, 165 apartment units and a restaurant. Leo Pustilnikov, the developer behind the project, did not respond to a request for comment. 

The council on May 21 also approved an updated list of Standby Officers, which is essentially a succession plan in case a council member becomes “unavailable” during a disaster. Each council member was required to list three individuals, in order of succession, to assume their duties during such an emergency.  

The updated list was approved as part of the consent calendar and there was no public discussion. 

The consent calendar also included a sixth-month extension of the North Canon Drive closure at Wilshire Boulevard while construction on the Metro D Line Subway Extension Project continues. The council approved a one-year extension of the closure on Sept. 21, 2021, and has renewed that extension several times since.  

As the end of the sixth-month extension approaches in December, staff will provide updates on Metro’s progress and the council will decide whether to keep the closure up, according to a staff report.  

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