After months of protests and background negotiations over Planned Parenthood bringing an abortion clinic to Brighton, New York, the saga came to a mysterious end that left both Pro-Life and Pro-Abortion sides claiming victory. There is no question, however, that Planned Parenthood left without having opened a clinic.
There are two prevailing theories for why Planned Parenthood gave up on Brighton, one favoring each side.
Planned Parenthood contended that a rent increase was why they scrapped groundwork that had been done for a clinic. Attached by Planned Parenthood to this explanation is that the pro-life group BRAVE did not affect their decision to leave.
And then there is the other possibility—that Planned Parenthood was scared off by something formidable in a lawsuit that BRAVE filed against the Town of Brighton Planning Board for how the clinic had been approved.
First, a look at the explanation that favors Planned Parenthood’s version of events.
Mother Jones Magazine confidently summarized Planned Parenthood’s side. As expressed in the magazine, where they quoted Michelle Casey, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York,
“Before the suit could be litigated, Planned Parenthood’s plans were halted—though the reason why had nothing to do with BRAVE. In January, Brighton Planned Parenthood said that its lease had been canceled, which Casey emphasized had to do with an unexpected increase in the rent and was completely unrelated to the lawsuit.”
A large part of the article zeroed in on an aspect of BRAVE’s lawsuit that the writer saw as outlandish. The attack on BRAVE’s case began with the article’s title:
“Anti-Abortion Crusaders Tried to Block a Clinic by Claiming Flushed Fetuses Will Clog the Waterways. Spoiler alert: They won’t.”
The article also highlighted the most unsubstantiated claims made by pro-lifers in the public comment portion of town meetings. The effect was to cause the reader to see the lawsuit—which dealt, in part, with waterway issues—as being on par with very questionable things said by citizens at public meetings.
In BRAVE’s lawsuit, however, the target was the Town of Brighton’s site plan approval process. Part of that legal challenge meant providing examples of things the town should have considered before approving the clinic but had not, such as wastewater issues.
BRAVE’s attorney Linda Mandel Clemente explained in an UncoverDC interview:
“Obviously, I think it’s fairly clear that in New York State, you’re not going to be able to challenge any kind of abortion facility on any kind of health ground. At this point, under the law, it’s very difficult to do that.
But, that being said, a Planned Parenthood facility, like any hospital, like any facility at all in the town, is subject to the application of the site plan approval process, and the site plan approval process is designed to take first and foremost a hard look at the potential environmental consequences of an action.“
Clemente could, if she were not representing pro-life groups, be seen as the type of lawyer a leftist might appreciate—always thinking of the environment. She continued:
“I’ve been practicing for a number of years, and when I first started, I worked on Superfund site litigation and RCRA litigation. That was something—environmental issues—was something I was fairly familiar with, and it struck me at the time because there were obviously no studies being done on chemical abortion or even the aftereffects of surgical abortions on the wastewater treatment facilities, and yet there has been a slew of studies from slaughterhouses.“
While concern over waterways is an odd fit next to more traditional reasons for opposing abortion – such as that it’s too close to murder to be used casually—as Clemente said, she had to make a case in New York State where her avenues of attack were limited.
So, was Clemente’s line of attack successful? We don’t know. BRAVE withdrew its lawsuit when Planned Parenthood decided not to pursue a clinic in Brighton. But while it’s unknown whether any part of the BRAVE’s Article 78 filing would have made a dent in court, there was an odd coincidence of timing: Planned Parenthood said they were notified of the damning cost escalation in August 2021, which is, coincidentally, the same month BRAVE filed its lawsuit.
The More Believable Explanation?
The reportage of Planned Parenthood’s exit from Brighton leaves two equally-believable and equally disputed scenarios—either that a rent increase was the reason Planned Parenthood left, or instead that something in BRAVE’s partly-environmental lawsuit had to do with their exit.
But how extreme would a rent increase have had to be for Planned Parenthood to leave? When they had been approved to build? And in a town where they enjoyed excellent relations with local politicians?
As far as what Planned Parenthood’s relationship had been with Town of Brighton officials:
Emails between Planned Parenthood and Brighton Supervisor William Moehle’s office were revealed in discovery due to BRAVE’s lawsuit. Discussion in the emails shows that the supervisor wrote a letter at Planned Parenthood’s request to support their receiving an Empire State Development Grant. The letter was composed before the town’s planning board had voted on the project.
Additionally, when pro-life advocates attended a town meeting for the first time to speak out against the clinic, a Planned Parenthood representative—Debora McDell-Hernandez, Senior Director of Public and Community Affairs—emailed the supervisor immediately afterward to say she hoped the pro-life advocates at the meeting—described as “our foes” —were in the minority and would be outnumbered by Planned Parenthood supporters.
Mandel Clemente, BRAVE’s attorney, put it this way when she discussed Planned Parenthood’s decision to shift its focus on a clinic to Henrietta, one of Brighton’s neighboring towns:
“It’s kind of difficult to sit down and argue they would have gone to all the expense of getting their approval from DOH and push through within the town of Brighton through two hearings … It’s not like prices weren’t rising in June and July. Everybody knew that was happening. So, if their argument is suddenly we just realized it wasn’t affordable …
I think they were nervous in Brighton. I think they were nervous that if it (the Article 78 filing) really went on the merits, they might lose and that would be really devastating to them, and so, I think they decided to withdraw that application and abandon it and use the excuse of this (rent increase) and then went forward (to Henrietta).“
However, there is a third possible explanation for the exit.
Morris Wortman Repeat
Perhaps Planned Parenthood was truthful about a significant rent increase that gave them no choice but to scrap their work.
However, it does not necessarily follow—as Planned Parenthood suggests it should—that BRAVE had nothing to do with that rent increase.
When Carol Crossed protested abortionist Morris Wortman’s clinic, she did so by appealing to the conscience of the man renting him office space. Could that same tactic have been used effectively twice? Did she try it a second time?
Crossed said nothing definitive in our interview about discussions with the property owner who would have leased space to Planned Parenthood. If it is believable, however, that she could have made headway with him, that would make three possibilities for why Planned Parenthood left Brighton. And in two of the three, Crossed’s group BRAVE won the war.
Crossed said in our interview:
“What happened is that members of BRAVE had actually visited the guy who was the rental property company management.
You know what? I know he liked us. I think he respected us. We weren’t afraid of him. We were very kind and straightforward.“
Crossed alluded to but wouldn’t repeat something the property manager told her. She then threw out some hypotheses. Still saying nothing definitive, she mentioned the effect she may have had on businesses in the complex where the clinic would have been located.
“We did a leaflet card there and stirred up a little conversation. I’m sure among the other people who rented from this management company, people didn’t want protesters over there. They didn’t want all that going on, and I imagine that some of that did get back to him.
How much of that (rent increase) was actually the owner’s decision—the owner’s decision may played have a role in the skyrocketing costs of construction, that may have happened – or maybe the heart of the owner was changed.”