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Judge Orders Two Michigan Abortion Clinics Closed (RH Reality Check)

Published November 21, 2011, on RH Reality Check.

By Eartha Melzer

 

Published: 11.21.11| Updated: 11.22.11

Eaton County, Michigan Circuit Judge Calvin Oosterhaven has issued a temporary restraining order against two Michigan abortion clinics that are charged with practicing medicine as an unlawfully-formed corporation.

On Nov. 7, Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette filed suit to dissolve Health Care Clinic, Inc, in Delta Township and Women’s Choice Clinic Inc. in Saginaw -- clinics that provide a range of services including abortion up to 24 weeks gestation and have been operating since 1983.

The AG argued that the clinics are violating state law that specifies that only licensed medical professionals may provide medical services as a for-profit corporation.

According to the complaint, clinic owners Richard and Mary Remund of Kewadin and the officers of their corporation are not medical professionals, but set up and administered the clinics and hired doctors to perform abortions.

In an order issued the next day, Eaton County Judge Calvin Oosterhaven suggested that this business structure threatens public safety.

“Absent the requested temporary restraining order, the harm to the People of Michigan will be irreparable because the provision of medical services can never be recalled for reversed once delivered. The harm is also immediate, as Defendants continue to provide unlawful medical services to Michigan residents each day. The People of Michigan are entitled to be provided with medical care services only by a person or business that is operating lawfully pursuant to the statutes of Michigan.”

Health Clinic Inc. and Women’s Choice Inc. have been the subject of intense scrutiny since last April when anti-choice activists claimed that they found fetal tissue and unshredded client medical records in the dumpster of the Delta Township clinic.

The allegations triggered sensational media coverage but a state police investigation ordered by the AG’s office found no evidence of improper medical waste disposal or violations of patient privacy laws.

It appears that the issue of the clinics corporate structure was recognized by state officials and treated as a technicality for years.

Documents provided to the court by the AG include a Jan. 25, 2000 letter from the state Dept. of Labor and Economic Growth’s Corporations Division that advises the Remund’s to modify their corporate filings with the state.

“It appears that the corporations are providing medical services and therefore should be organized as Professional Service corporation. Domestic Profit corporations cannot provide medical services ...” the letter states. “To change the corporations from Domestic Profit corporations to Professional Service corporation, complete the enclosed [form]. The filing fee is $10.00 per corporation.”

Exhibits filed by the AG also show that in 2002 Richard Remund changed the stated purpose of the corporations from “medical clinic office" and “medical office" to “administrative service provider for doctors."

The attorney for the Remunds and the attorney generals office did not respond to requests for interviews, and so far the closure of the clinics has not garnered media coverage beyond anti-choice web sites.

Right to Life of Michigan is “extremely pleased” with Schuette’s action, Legislative Director Ed Rivet said, adding that the AG’s office is in ongoing contact with the group about the status of the case.

“It’s not like we have to wait for a press release,” he said. “They are keeping us apprised. As things develop we kind of get a report.”

Rivet said that he believes that there will be a settlement in the case and he hopes it will include an order blocking the operators of the two clinics from ever opening another facility.

“With most of the events that go on with the abortion issues there is a subjective, emotional component,” he said. “But no one can deny that the corporate papers were not in order -- these are just the facts on the ground.”

Rivet said the shutdown of the two clinics has motivated Right to Life to undertake a detailed review of the enforcement of rules and regulations governing Michigan abortion clinics and that they plan to share this with the AG and the public in the near future.

John Keserich, director of political field operations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said the closure of the two clinics is sure to adversely affect the availability of abortion in a state where few clinics provide abortion up to 24 weeks and where rural and young women already face steep hurdles in accessing services.

“Women who find themselves in circumstances where they are seeking abortion services after 20 weeks are almost always seeking them because of severe fetal anomalies or severe threats to their own health,” he said.

Keserich characterized the AG’s case against the clinics as part of a broad war on womens health.

“The political climate that we exist in is ripe for the AG to take action based on ideological positions on abortion services," he said. “We think that the situation of the closing of these clinics is part of that.”

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