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After a lawsuit last month accused Beverly Hills officials of colluding with anti-abortion activists and a real estate company to block the opening of a reproductive health care clinic on Wilshire Boulevard, residents are calling on their leaders to take a stronger stance in support of reproductive rights.
In a series of impassioned public comments during the Sept. 12 City Council meeting, residents voiced their disappointment with leaders for not backing up their rhetoric with action, excoriated the city for threatening women’s rights and health care, and called for a full investigation into the claims of collusion.
“Who gets to make the decisions as to what legal business is permitted to open in the city? As of now, it appears extremist groups do,” resident Heather Fels said. “Where is the transparency? I’m ashamed by what appears to be government corruption, and I would love the opportunity to better understand what happened.”
Amanda Smith, who lived in Beverly Hills for 34 years, said she is concerned that since 2020, the city has earned an increasingly conservative reputation.
“It is long past time for the city to actually do something more than just send a resolution to the Supreme Court,” Smith said. “Turning the City Hall pink was a start. I’m now asking you to back up your words with actions, not in shadow, but in full public view, and lead our country forward as the city has done so many times before.”
The council members did not address the statements, as is protocol for comments made on non-agenda items.
On Aug. 14, attorneys for DuPont Clinic, a reproductive health facility in Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit claiming that commercial real estate company Douglas Emmett colluded with Beverly Hills officials to delay the opening and ultimately rescind the lease for a proposed clinic at 8920 Wilshire Blvd. The lawsuit lists 10 causes of action against Douglas Emmett, including breach of contract, negligent interference with prospective economic relations and negligent misrepresentation.
According to the complaint, DuPont chose to open a new location in Beverly Hills because of the city’s public stance on women’s reproductive rights, signing a lease in September 2022 with plans to open the following October.
After months of pressure from anti-abortion groups that protested at City Council meetings and in front of the Wilshire Boulevard building, Douglas Emmett rescinded the lease in June, copying city officials on the rescission letter, according to the lawsuit.
DuPont’s lawsuit further alleges that city officials conspired to block the clinic’s opening by delaying permits, pressuring Douglas Emmett into rescinding the lease and brokering agreements at secret meetings with the anti-abortion activists.
On Aug. 14, DuPont sent the city a letter indicating its intention to sue, but it has not yet filed suit and the city has not issued a response, according to a DuPont spokesperson.
The city has denied all allegations, stating it has a clear record of supporting women’s rights.
But when Gay Abrams read about the lawsuit, she felt city officials had failed to uphold their promises.
“It didn’t look like there were any issues until this group showed up to City Council meetings and began protesting,” Abrams said. “It doesn’t seem to me that the city stood up for the clinic. It did not stand up for women’s reproductive freedom.”
Worried that the apparent success of this group could influence others to adopt similar tactics to push the needle on a range of different issues, Abrams began researching ways to protect the city against extremist influence.
She began writing letters to state officials, and reaching out to legal scholars and political organizations with which she’s involved, seeking connections and resources.
A small group of residents have taken up the effort as well, though some are choosing to work “under the radar,” concerned about blowback from extremists, she said.
“My goal is to find partners, and frankly, I would like to help the city. I do empathize with their quandary, I think it was a very difficult situation,” Abrams said. “They are concerned about the safety of their citizens, they’re concerned about … crime. But I also feel it just sets a very dangerous precedent if they don’t stand up.”
During a public comment at the City Council meeting, Abrams spoke more about the potential consequences of appearing to embolden extremists of any stripe.
“If our city succumbs to one group, who will come next to Beverly Hills? Will groups demand to remove books or change our history curriculum? Or maybe an anti-gun group will decide to protest our gun stores? What about our synagogues? Our LGBTQ community? Maybe a vegan group will protest our various steak houses? What about the next election? Will our election workers be protected? Who will the city choose to protect or leave alone?”
The lawsuit against Douglas Emmett is ongoing, and in August, a DuPont representative said the clinic planned to file a separate lawsuit against the city, but has not yet done so.
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