News Abortion

Rogue Abortion Provider Lacked Medical Malpractice Insurance, New Jersey AG Says

Sharona Coutts

If New Jersey’s attorney general succeeds in the current administrative proceedings, that state will permanently revoke Dr. Steven C. Brigham's medical license, leaving him without any valid credentials to practice medicine in the United States.

Read more of Rewire‘s articles on Steven Brigham here.

The controversial doctor at the center of an illegal abortion scandal did not have medical malpractice insurance, in breach of New Jersey law, according to new documents filed in an administrative law proceeding by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.

The claim is the latest in a slew of allegations leveled against Dr. Steven C. Brigham, whose checkered history of harming patients and flouting laws has led several states to suspend or revoke his medical license.

If New Jersey’s attorney general succeeds in the current administrative proceedings, that state will permanently revoke Brigham’s medical license, leaving him without any valid credentials to practice medicine in the United States.

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The proceedings arose from a 2010 incident in which an 18-year-old New Jersey resident was left with major internal injuries after undergoing a surgical abortion in clinic affiliated with Brigham in Elkton, Maryland. The incident prompted a raid by Maryland authorities in which they discovered fetal remains in freezers, and initially charged Brigham and his associate, Dr. Nicola Riley, with murder of those fetuses.

Those charges were later dropped, but New Jersey’s attorney general has included the Elkton incident in the current proceedings, arguing that Brigham’s unlicensed practice of medicine in Maryland amount to a crime under New Jersey law. Brigham concedes that he did not have a Maryland medical license, but claims that although he initiated the abortions in New Jersey from 2009 through 2010, he arranged for other doctors to complete the procedures once the patients arrived in Maryland. He claims that he was not, therefore, actually practicing medicine in Maryland. Both the medical board of Maryland and the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General disagree: Maryland ordered him to cease and desist the unlicensed practice of medicine, and New Jersey has made that claim part of its current case.

This is not the first time that Brigham’s multi-state abortion scheme has landed him in legal trouble.

New Jersey first attempted to crack down on his practice in the mid-1990s, arguing then—as now—that it was an elaborate ploy to skirt New Jersey laws that require all abortions performed after 14 weeks’ gestation to take place at a licensed ambulatory facility or a hospital. An administrative law judge decided in the late 1990s that Brigham’s scheme did not fall foul of the law.

Since then, Brigham resumed his practice of commencing abortions in his private offices in locations throughout New Jersey, often by administering medications and injections intended to kill the fetus and induce labor. He would also frequently insert devices knows as “laminaria,” which assist the cervix to dilate.

After providing these interventions, Brigham or his staff would tell patients to go home, and return to the clinic the following day, where Brigham and his staff would lead them in a caravan of cars that traveled to clinics in Maryland or Pennsylvania.

These practices have been condemned as dangerous and irresponsible by reputable abortion providers, who say they fall short of acceptable standards of care.

The current proceedings include multiple counts against Brigham, alleging that he has breached both civil and criminal laws as a result of his multi-state scheme.

The counts include failure to keep proper medical records, practicing medicine without a license, violating New Jersey’s laws that govern terminations of pregnancy, and engaging in conduct that amounts to a “clear and imminent danger to the public.”

The latest filings add to that list. Last week, the attorney general sought permission from the court to include a new count: that Brigham failed to comply a legal requirement that he maintain medical malpractice liability insurance while practicing medicine in New Jersey.

The revelation came to light in October 2013, when Jeri L. Warhaftig, the senior deputy attorney general for New Jersey who is arguing the case, met with the woman who was injured at the Elkton clinic in 2010, according to the new filings. During that meeting, the former patient told Warhaftig that she had reached a financial settlement with Brigham’s association, Dr. Riley, but that she had not pursued any action against Brigham himself because her attorney had discovered that Brigham did not have malpractice insurance.

“That fact, among others, discouraged her from pursuing action,” according to the new filings.

In fact, to the extent that Brigham has possessed malpractice insurance in the past few years, it appears that he bought policies from an identified fraudster based in Bermuda and Georgia who served jail time after pleading guilty in 2007 to fraudulent activities and money laundering. According to the new filings, the U.S. Attorney’s Office notified victims of that fraudulent scheme in 2006, yet Brigham continued to claim that he was covered by that policy until as late as September 2011.

Because the proceedings are ongoing, the New Jersey attorney general’s office is unable to comment. The administrative proceedings are not expected to conclude until early 2014, at the earliest.

Even if Brigham is permanently stripped of his New Jersey medical license, that will not necessarily spell the end of his involvement in providing abortion services in the United States, because most states do not require the owners or managers of medical clinics—not just those where abortions are provided—to possess medical licenses.

Indeed, Brigham still owns and manages several American Women’s Services clinics in New Jersey, and remains affiliated with other clinics in Maryland and other states, according to his company’s website.

Last month, Pennsylvania ordered the closure of a clinic after legitimate abortion providers discovered that it was owned by Brigham, despite a legal order that prohibits him from any involvement in abortion services in that state.

During a hearing in New Jersey last month, Brigham insisted that he is motivated by a desire to help women in need, and insisted that many of the claims against him are motivated by politics or by his “competitors.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Sanders Vows to Continue the ‘Political Revolution’

Ally Boguhn

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) seemingly signaled he is not yet ready to concede the nomination to Hillary Clinton, and he promised to help push for reforms within the party while working to keep presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump from winning the White House.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) isn’t bowing out of the race for the Democratic nomination after the close of the presidential primaries, and Hillary Clinton took to the Huffington Post to talk about campus sexual assault and whether women should have to sign up for the draft.

“The Political Revolution Must Continue”: Sanders Vows in Thursday Night Address to Push for Party Reform

Sanders addressed supporters Thursday night after the 2016 presidential primary season ended earlier this week. He seemingly signaled he is not yet ready to concede the nomination to Hillary Clinton, and he promised to help push for reforms within the party while working to keep presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump from winning the White House.

“Election days come and go. But political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end. They continue every day, every week, and every month in the fight to create a nation and world of social and economic justice,” Sanders said during the address, which was live-streamed online. “Real change never takes place from the top on down or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors. It always occurs from the bottom on up, when tens of millions of people say loudly and clearly ‘enough is enough’ and they become engaged in the fight for justice. That’s what the political revolution we helped start is all about. That’s why the political revolution must continue.”

“The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly,” Sanders continued, vowing to soon begin his role in ensuring the Republican doesn’t make it to the White House.

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“But defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal,” he added. “We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become.”

Expressing his hope that he could continue to work with Clinton’s campaign, Sanders promised to ensure that supporters’ “voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda.”

That agenda included raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ending the gender pay gap, defending reproductive rights, and protecting marriage equality in the United States, among other things.

Sanders’ speech came just after campaign manager Jeff Weaver said the campaign is “not currently lobbying superdelegates” and doesn’t “anticipate that will start anytime soon” during an interview on Bloomberg Politics’ With All Due Respect Thursday. The next day, Weaver told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Sanders is still “an active candidate for president.”

Clinton Weighs in on Stanford Sexual Assault Case, Women Joining the Draft

Hillary Clinton took a stand on two notable issues during an interview with the Huffington Post this week, telling the publication that she supported a measure in the Senate to require women to sign up for the draft and her thoughts about the Stanford sexual assault case.

“I do support that,” Clinton told the publication Wednesday when asked about the Senate’s approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, a military policy bill that would require women to sign up for the military draft once they turn 18, earlier in the week.

“I am on record as supporting the all-volunteer military, which I think at this time does serve our country well,” said Clinton. “And I am very committed to supporting and really lifting up the men and women in uniform and their families.”

As the New York Times reported, under the bill, “Failure to register could result in the loss of various forms of federal aid, including Pell grants, a penalty that men already face. Because the policy would not apply to women who turned 18 before 2018, it would not affect current aid arrangements.”

Though the U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled that women weren’t required to register for the draft as they were not allowed to serve in combat, the Times continued, “since Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said in December that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women, military officials have told Congress that women should also sign up for the draft.”

The draft registry has not been used by the United States since 1973, but requiring women to sign up for it has nevertheless been an issue on the campaign trail this election season. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called requiring women to register for the draft “nuts” in February prior to dropping out of the race for the White House, while other then-Republican presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush all signaled they would support it.

During her interview with Huffington Post, Clinton also voiced her support for the survivor at the center of the controversial Stanford sexual assault case, saying she was “was struck by” the “heartbreaking power” of the letter the survivor wrote detailing her experiences.

“It took great courage and I think she has done an important service for others,” Clinton said. “What I’ve heard about this case is deeply concerning. It is clear campus sexual assault continues to be a serious problem. And I’ve said before and I will continue to say it is not enough to condemn it. We must find ways to end it.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee had previously released a platform for addressing the national crisis of campus sexual assault, which promises to “provide comprehensive support to survivors;” “ensure fair process for all in campus disciplinary proceedings and the criminal justice system;” and “increase sexual violence prevention education programs that cover issues like consent and bystander intervention, not only in college, but also in secondary school.”

What Else We’re Reading

Trump’s “endgame” could be launching a “mini-media conglomerate,” Vanity Fair reports.

“He was always very open about describing women by their breast size,” a crew member for Trump’s reality show The Apprentice told Slate of the presumptive Republican nominee. “Any time I see people in the Trump organization say how nice he is, I want to throw up. He’s been a nasty person to women for a long time.”

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando at an LGBTQ club, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director of the LGBT Rights Project, David Dinielli, noted that “candidates on the campaign trail-and even the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party-elevate radical anti-LGBT leaders.”

Fact-checkers at the Washington Post took on both Clinton and Trump’s speeches on national security after the massacre in Orlando over the weekend.

“Regardless of your politics, it’s a seminal moment for women,” said Oprah, who offered her endorsement to Clinton on Wednesday, when speaking about the presumptive Democratic nominee. “What this says is, there is no ceiling, that ceiling just went boom! It says anything is possible when you can be leader of the free world.”

CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Tal Yellin, and Ryan Browne offer a look into the implications of Trump’s proposed plan to “suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies.”

Univision penned an open letter on Tuesday expressing their concern over Trump’s decision to revoke press credentials for the Washington Post.

Republicans may have fewer women in the House next year after the election season wraps up.

Texas has already spent $3.5 million fighting multiple lawsuits over the state’s restrictive voter ID law, in what an attorney helping plaintiffs in one of the suits deemed a “shameful waste of taxpayer money.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) moved to make voting in the state easier for some this week, signing legislation that will allow residents with driver’s licenses and state IDs to register to vote online. What’s the catch? According to ThinkProgress, “the option will not be available until early next year, after the presidential election, despite the Republican Secretary of State’s insistence that the Ohio could implement the policy immediately.”

News Law and Policy

Lexington Clinic Forced to Close, Leaving Eastern KY Patients One Abortion Care Option

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a Lexington doctor's office cannot stay open until it gets a license from the state to operate as an abortion clinic.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that a Lexington abortion clinic must close pending a new license, reversing a lower court ruling that had allowed the clinic to remain open.

Attorneys from the state sued the EMW Women’s Clinic in early March, arguing that it lacked a license required by the state to perform abortions. Under Kentucky law, physicians’ offices that perform a variety of services do not have to be licensed separately to perform abortions; the clinic had been operating as one such office.

But attorneys for the State of Kentucky argue that because EMW Women’s Clinic performed more than 400 abortions in 2015—what the state regards as a substantial amount of business—it is a stand-alone abortion clinic and subject to the state’s licensure requirements for such facilities. These requirements include agreements with a local hospital and an ambulance service. The EMW clinic now has both, although the state said the clinic did not have an agreement with an ambulance service at the time of its inspection in February.

In March, Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone denied the state’s request to close the clinic as the lawsuit proceeded, ruling that the state had failed to present enough evidence the facility was in violation of the licensure requirement to justify shuttering it in the meantime. Scorsone also ruled closing the clinic would be against the public interest, because it is the only physician’s office that routinely provides abortion services in the eastern half of Kentucky.

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But the appellate court overturned that decision Wednesday and ruled the EMW Women’s Clinic was “temporarily enjoined from operating an abortion facility” until it receives a license from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services—a political board—or until a final judgment is rendered in this case, whichever comes first.

“The cabinet [for Health and Family Services] is not seeking to prevent women from obtaining abortions. It is seeking, however, to enforce its right to regulate the manner in which abortions are performed in this commonwealth,” the ruling stated.

Gov. Matt Bevin (R) called the ruling an “important victory for the rule of law in Kentucky.”

“We are pleased by the court’s recognition that an unlicensed abortion clinic is prohibited from performing abortions,” he said in a statement. “This has been our administration’s stance from the beginning. This is the right and necessary ruling to ensure that the health and safety of women are protected.”

Attorneys for the clinic are considering whether to let the ruling stand and the case continue on, or to make an immediate appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court. In the meantime, EMW Women’s Clinic will stop offering abortions. That leaves patients in Eastern Kentucky who need an abortion with only one remaining option: a stand-alone clinic in Louisville.