GELFAND’S WORLD - The following story illustrates where the Supreme Court has taken us with its Dobbs v Jackson decision, which reversed Roe v Wade. Ostensibly, the decision held that individual states have the right to regulate abortion. Numerous red states went to town, often limiting abortion to very early in pregnancy or even making it essentially illegal. Some states, in so doing, made it impossible for doctors to intervene legally to save the lives of women who presented with ectopic pregnancies or other life-endangering conditions.
California was not one of those states, and passed a ballot initiative which seemingly legalizes all abortions, although it has not worked its way through court challenges as yet.
One more background item, and then we can get into the rude stuff. There are very few (little more than a dozen) clinics in this country which are willing to do a third trimester abortion under any circumstance. The sort of circumstance that leads to an abortion recommendation is some sort of rare fetal anomaly which would result in the immediate death of the newborn (like it doesn't have a head), or a cancer in the mother which will lead to the mother's death without early and profound treatment -- treatment which is not consistent with maintaining the health of the fetus.
Earlier this year, a Washington D.C. based abortion provider known as the Dupont Clinic -- one of the few which offers late abortions -- decided that in view of the new legal environment, they ought to open another clinic here in California. They found a medical building in Beverly Hills, signed a lease with the property management company, and began to do the expensive job of remodeling which their plans required.
And at this point, an antiabortion group found out about the plans and got involved. It held demonstrations at the building and made speeches in the public comment period to the Beverly Hills City Council.
Things started to come to a head around mid-summer. The following will be a recitation of facts, but they do not necessarily stem one from the other in a chain of causation.
The antiabortion group met with city representatives.
The police chief wrote a draft letter which was circulated to the building managers, warning of possible demonstrations, vandalism, and violence, and which was said to be intended to be provided to the other tenants.
The Dupont Clinic received a letter from the building manager saying their lease had been rescinded.
The antiabortion group were told by Beverly Hills officials that the lease had been rescinded.
The antiabortion group seems to believe that they won a great victory by convincing (or intimidating) the city government.
The Dupont Clinic believes that there was collusion against them by all of the other parties, and they filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the building manager.
The Beverly Press also reported on the local response, which was distinctly negative, to the antiabortion victory in their town. You can find that story here.
The locals are particularly incensed that the Chief of Police wrote the letter warning about the potential dangers of having the abortion clinic in the city. Defenders of the clinic pointed out that the city does not disseminate this kind of warning about a synagogue or an establishment that sells fur coats, or any of the Rodeo Drive businesses that have become targets of the smash and grab epidemic.
The clinic feels that they were specifically targeted by the city due to the pressure from the protestors.
We might also remind ourselves that Beverly Hills was the site of numerous pro-Trump demonstrations and rallies that went on for months without the city getting involved in the way it has with the Dupont Clinic.
The pro-choice side has now taken its argument to the internet, creating a petition which is now available on change.org. That petition calls for an independent investigation into what happened, allowing the clinic to open, and a more complicated demand that an ordinance be created which would forbid city representatives from cooperating with out of state anti-abortion groups.
If you want to sign the petition, you can find it here.
A few more observations: I have read the letter written by the police chief, and it is what we used to refer to as a mixed bag. It raises concerns about many issues, including the deserved privacy of other users of the building, noise and traffic, criminal activity, and harassment. In brief, it seems to be an acknowledgment that once the Dupont Clinic opens its doors, the building and its surroundings will be the subject of unrelenting harassment by the anti-abortion group, complete with the picket signs with pictures of aborted fetuses, the noise, the harassment of patients, and interference with car traffic.
This may be an accurate prediction. None of it is objectively wrong or inaccurate. But there is one question. Why does the police chief involve himself in this dispute when so much else goes on within the city already? We notice that the city does not complain about the unseemly display of consumerism (or the prices) on its most famous street.
The chief could have simply said that the police department defends the rights of all residents and businesses, and takes no side in what is a political and social disagreement. He might have gone on to explain that his department would enforce the law, whatever the views of protestors and bystanders may happen to be.
The Dupont Clinic and its supporters are suggesting that the City of Beverly Hills made some sort of improper deal with the anti-abortion group, as the news stories indicate. At the same time, the Dupont Clinic has not (as yet) sued the city. It may be that the clinic will receive monetary damages from a court or in settlement.
Perhaps the Dupont Clinic should consider taking its business to the City of Los Angeles. I suspect that the L.A. City Council would be harder to intimidate, considering that it has just recently gone through the Nury Martinez scandal, which included day after day of loud, emotional demonstrations in the council chambers. The protestors will get their one minute of public comment time, the same way as yours truly.
The clinic should also consider buying a separate piece of property -- one without a sidewalk -- and putting up a separate building on that property. Then it would be up to the law and the courts of California to decide what is permissible and what is not, rather than leaving our social decisions to the law of the mob.
The Second Republican Presidential Debate
Didn't watch it. Read some reviews. One critic wondered whether it is possible for all of the participants to lose. Gavin Newsom commented that this was the junior varsity -- people running for Vice President. That may be the case for some of the participants, but I don't think it's true for Mike Pence. Then again, I rank Mike Pence alongside Kevin McCarthy for avoiding pride, although I put Pence a little higher on the bravery scale.
The Donald, as one wife referred to him, seems to be going through a bad patch, considering that he would like to have Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, executed. There is more, but honestly it has gotten boring. Everybody who tells the truth about Trump gets lied about by Trump. Now it is overt threatening. To quote the title of a new book by one of those targets, "Enough."
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)