Planned Parenthood cancels new clinic in upstate New York

Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York has canceled plans to build a 6,389-square-foot abortion clinic at a medical business park in the upstate town of Brighton after pro-life activists mounted a legal challenge.

Jeremy Sher, an attorney with Adams LeClaire representing the town on Rochester’s southeastern border, confirmed with the activists’ attorney Linda Mandel Clemente in an email exchange that the lawsuit would be dropped on Wednesday since Planned Parenthood has abandoned its site plan that the town approved July 21. 

Mr. Sher informed Ms. Clemente that Planned Parenthood terminated its lease with the Westfall Medical Park — originally signed Nov. 12, 2020 — on Oct. 4.

“We’re happy they withdrew, but I don’t know why we didn’t find out until January that they terminated the lease in October,” Ms. Clemente told The Washington Times on Wednesday. “We asked the town repeatedly over the past several months about whether Planned Parenthood was proceeding.”

In a media statement, Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York said it canceled the clinic due to economic inflation, as “cost escalation from the initial estimate” left Westfall Medical unable to meet the financial terms of the lease.

“The lease termination agreement is in absolutely no way related to any litigation or pressure from anti-choice groups,” Planned Parenthood said in the statement, adding that it made the decision last August.

But Ms. Clemente, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of local pro-life activists on Aug. 21 in Monroe County Supreme Court, challenged that timing.

“It’s questionable for them to say it had nothing to do with the lawsuit,” Ms. Clemented said. “If they decided in August, why didn’t they sign the lease termination agreement until October?”

The attorney said the lawsuit had uncovered major legal questions about the Brighton Planning Board’s approval of the new clinic’s site plan.

“They failed to look at environmental factors like waste disposal, traffic concerns and impact to community character as required by state law,” she said. 

Neither Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York nor Kenneth W. Gordon, Brighton’s town attorney, responded Wednesday to a request for comment. But a web page for the Brighton-Henrietta Health Center said the clinic remained open with abortion services at a temporary location down the street.

Tom Olp, vice president and senior counsel for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society that consulted on the case, said the lawsuit raised several resident concerns that Planned Parenthood chose not to address.

“The lawsuit focused on the site plan approval process itself, including the lack of a meaningful review by the Planning Board of the many issues that an abortion clinic can bring to a neighborhood community,” Mr. Olp said. “The lawsuit questioned whether surgical facilities are a permitted use within the zoning district. It also raised the question of waste disposal, as well as deleterious secondary impacts to the community character.”

And Missy Martinez-Stone, CEO of the Kentucky-based pro-life group Reprotection that also consulted with Ms. Clemente, said the city did not turn over any of the documentation requested in the lawsuit.

“The way the town handled it was very suspicious because they skipped a lot of steps in the approval process,” said Ms. Martinez-Stone.

Pro-life activists in Brighton, an affluent suburban community of 37,000, formed a community group last June called Brighton Residents Against Violence (BRAVE) to oppose the clinic through six weeks of door-knocking campaigns.

Brighton resident Carol Crossed, a member of BRAVE, said she believed the intensity of residents’ objections had an impact on local civic and business leaders. She said 62 group members made 127 presentations to the Brighton Planning Board and members of the Town Board in a seven-month effort to stop the clinic.

“Planned Parenthood miscalculated the people of Brighton, whose justice concerns are expansive,” Ms. Crossed said in a statement on BRAVE’s website.

Ellen Duncan, another Brighton resident who regularly protests at abortion clinics as a member of Roc Love Will End Abortion, added that local activists made it clear they were going to be on the sidewalk every week had Planned Parenthood built the clinic.

“Planned Parenthood does not like their business disrupted, and so they frequently call the police,” Ms. Duncan said. “It makes sense that other medical personnel in Westfall Medical Park do not want that kind of chaos.”

Health, The New York Today

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