….DuPont Clinic, a Washington, D.C.-based provider, said it has spent millions of dollars updating the medical facility on Wilshire Boulevard with the goal of expanding to the West Coast. Its letter to the city — a required precursor in California to a lawsuit — alleges that four city officials, including Mayor Julian Gold, acted to withhold permits to the facility after antiabortion protests.
It claims the city — where voters in 2020 chose Joe Biden by 17 percentage points over Donald Trump — pressured the landlord to back out of the lease; held “secret meetings” with members of the group Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust and “promised them it would stop DuPont from opening.”
The clinic alleges city officials “bowed to the political pressure of the antiabortion community” instead of protecting “the right to abortion enshrined in the California Constitution.” DuPont is also targeting the landlord, Douglas Emmett Inc., in a separate lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
“It’s disappointing to try to return to California — after so much has been in the news about how the state is ready to help people access abortion — only to discover that the reality is different,” Dr. Matthew Reeves, DuPont’s founder, told the Los Angeles Times.
Beverly Hills officials denied DuPont’s allegations and said rescinding the lease was the landlord’s decision.
“The assertion that the city came to an agreement with protesters to force the clinic out is false,” Deputy City Manager Keith Sterling told The Times on Monday. “The permits were issued after our attorneys confirmed the services to be offered were in compliance with state law. We were anticipating the clinic would open in Beverly Hills later this year.”
California statute restricts abortions after a fetus is viable, at about 24 to 26 weeks of pregnancy, unless the patient’s life or health is in danger. That makes California abortion law more complicated than in the nation’s capital and six states — Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont — with no gestational limits on when abortion is legal.
But California’s fetal viability limit is in question, however, after voters in November overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, adding a right to abortion to the state Constitution, that did not mention the word “viability.” Legal experts say there is little consensus on whether California’s viability standard still holds….
In September 2022, DuPont entered a lease on the Beverly Hills property with Douglas Emmett, a Santa Monica-based real estate investment trust company, to open a clinic much like in Washington, with doulas and dedicated nurses and private rooms with aromatherapy….
A few weeks later — as Californians got ready to vote on Proposition 1 — antiabortion activists began to take note. “This is horrifying!” Greg Burt, Capitol engagement director for the California Family Council, wrote to DuPont on Twitter. “Abortion up to the moment of birth. How barbaric….”
DuPont was confident the landlord and city supported abortion rights, its doctors said. There was already a clinic in the Wilshire building and another had historically provided later-trimester procedures. DuPont pressed on, according to its notice to the city, discussing permits and zoning with officials and hiring architects and a general contractor to demolish the old offices and build a new medical suite.
In April, protesters projected “MURDER MILL” on the side of the building on Wilshire. A week later, three spoke at a City Council meeting.
Tasha Barker, a Sacramento paralegal and harp instructor, called in to argue that the clinic was different from others in California because it performed abortions past fetal viability. “Right on their website, it says they’ll perform these abortions for no reason at all.”
“That’s their mission — to offer abortions in the third trimester at will — and most people, whether they be pro-life or pro-choice, agree that that is abhorrent,” Barker said, urging a pause in building permits. “I’m asking you to consider how extreme this clinic is.”
A few days later, DuPont found out the city had suddenly withheld permits for the clinic.
DuPont’s clinic in Washington, D.C., is one of a handful in the nation that specialize in later abortions.
“If you are between 26 weeks and 31 weeks 6 days into your pregnancy, we can still see you, regardless of your medical history, background, or fetal indications,” DuPont’s website states. “We do not require any particular ‘reason’ to be seen here — if you would like to terminate your pregnancy, we support you in that decision.”
But DuPont’s doctors were not sure they could perform abortions in Beverly Hills as late as in Washington. They had not fully worked out the limits of the law with their attorneys, said the doctor who planned to work in the clinic.
“Of course, we were going to be compliant with California law,” she said. “But the question of compliance and how to do that is not a concrete, ‘Just stay below 28 weeks.’”
After protesters raised the issue of gestational age limits with the City Council, DuPont said, Beverly Hills officials began to press for more information.
On April 25, the city attorney told DuPont’s lawyer that he “had some questions” about the building permits, according to the notice letter DuPont filed Monday. Laurence Wiener said the city had concerns, based on language on DuPont’s website, that the clinic intended to “violate state laws” on abortion; he said he would release the permits, but asked for a letter from DuPont.
The city wanted assurance that the clinic would “follow California law, which provides that abortions are not permitted once the fetus is viable, except to protect the health of the mother,” Sterling, the deputy city manager, told The Times.
DuPont’s doctors said they were shocked; the request, they allege in their notice to the city, was “improper” and “discriminatory.”
“We have now reached an impasse in Beverly Hills due to the city attorney refusing to release our building permits, which were approved weeks ago,” DuPont emailed the mayor and other city officials April 27.
DuPont offered to discuss preparations for the clinic, but no one from the city, DuPont alleges, responded to the email. The permits were issued — without DuPont writing the letter.
Meanwhile, DuPont alleges, the city met with representatives from the Douglas Emmett company and asked if there was a way to avoid opening the clinic. According to DuPont, the landlord’s representatives later said city officials became “visibly upset” when told no, that the lease had been signed.
On May 31, Beverly Hills’ chief of police sent DuPont and the landlord a draft of a letter warning the building’s tenants that protesters may “attempt to disrupt business” and there could be “violence or vandalism that requires law enforcement involvement.”
DuPont contends it was intended to “terrify” tenants and pressure DuPont to leave. The city counters it was an “information letter” offering police contact as protests picked up.
A Douglas Emmett lawyer cited the letter nearly two weeks later when he emailed the clinic that the company would rescind the lease. The notice, copied to the mayor and city manager, instructed DuPont to cease work on the premises.
The real estate company said DuPont had failed to disclose that the “primary focus” of its practice “would be providing abortions for abnormal and high risk pregnancies including what are commonly referred to as late term abortions” or that its Washington clinic had drawn protests. The landlord said it did not learn the “actual scope” of the clinic’s work until it saw the police chief’s draft letter….
From the L.A. Times