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Michigan Attorney General Targets Abortion Clinic Over ‘Clerical Errors’

Michelle D. Anderson

Efforts to shut down clinics through legal action also have been seen in Kentucky, where Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has launched a legal attack on a facility that provides abortion care.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed a civil lawsuit in an attempt to shut down a Detroit abortion clinic he said is operating without proper licensing.

Filed April 7 in Wayne County, Michigan, Schuette’s lawsuit alleges that Summit Medical Center, an abortion facility located on Detroit’s west side, is operating illegally because it is not owned by a licensed medical professional.

Michigan law requires medical and other professional services be provided through corporations owned by a licensed professional to ensure “that doctors direct care and supervise medical services,” Schuette said.

The facility in Detroit is associated with the national Summit Medical Centers, which has locations in Georgia and Connecticut, and has branches in Nevada, North Carolina, and Alabama, the Detroit Free Press reported.

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The Detroit facility has provided medical service through Summit of Detroit, P.C., a professional corporation. Schuette, a Republican who was elected in 2010, said he planned to “investigate the possible fraudulent formation” of that corporation.

Schuette’s office said it took action after Summit P.C. submitted an annual report to the state last May.

That report, the attorney general said, revealed that David Lipton was Summit P.C.’s sole officer, director, and owner. Schuette charged that the corporation had changed its corporate purpose to “management company,” which was against the law for a professional corporation.

Michigan’s lawsuit also alleged that Summit P.C. falsely certified that Lipton was licensed to provide professional medical services.

The state said it learned that licensed physician, Dr. Alex Pickens Jr., incorporated Summit P.C. in 2011 after a complaint was filed against the clinic in 2014. Schuette later closed that complaint.

The defendants in Michigan’s lawsuit—including Lipton, Summit Medical Center, and the abortion provider’s administrator, Anise Burrell—will not be held liable for the allegations until the court enters a judgment in the case, the attorney general said.

Victor Norris and Laurie Raab, counsel for Summit of Detroit, P.C., Summit Women’s Center of Detroit, Inc., Lipton, and Burrell, said in a statement that Schuette was wrongly seeking to shut down the abortion care facility. Raab and Norris said the conflict boiled down to “clerical errors.”

“Summit of Detroit, P.C. uses the services of a nationally and internationally recognized business service to act as its resident agent and file annual reports with the State of Michigan. Unfortunately, this company filed a 2015 annual report that incorrectly identified Summit of Detroit, P.C.’s purpose, ownership and organizational structure,” the statement said.

Upon learning of the clerical errors, Summit of Detroit, P.C. said it immediately contacted its service provider to have the error corrected to reflect that Summit is indeed owned and operated by a licensed medical professional.

The statement noted that the parties in the lawsuit were cooperating with Schuette’s office to quickly resolve the conflict with the state.

Efforts to shut down facilities that offer abortion care through legal action have been seen in Kentucky, where attorneys representing Gov. Matt Bevin (R) recently asked the state Court of Appeals to shut down the EMW Women’s Surgical Center abortion clinic in Louisville because it was operating without a license.

The Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky affiliate recently suspended operations in the state while a lawsuit filed against it by Bevin’s general counsel is pending. That dispute included allegations that the clinic did not have proper licensing to perform its services to pregnant people seeking abortion care.

Laura Beth Cohen, co-president of the Law Students for Reproductive Justice at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said in an interview with Rewire that attempts to shut down abortion clinics for “non-medical reasons, or reasons that do not concern patient safety or malpractice” are increasingly common nationwide.

Cohen, who said she was inspired to enroll in law school because of the recent spate of targeted regulations of abortion providers, said many providers across the country are forced to shut down or spend copious amounts of money to keep up with regulations that impose requirements beyond what is necessary for patient safety.

The Guttmacher Institute in a state policy briefing published in March noted that 14 states place unnecessary requirements on clinicians who perform abortions and require abortion providers to have some affiliation with a local hospital.

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