This morning in Cook County Court in downtown Chicago, a hearing was held in the case of People of the State of Illinois v. Women’s Aid Clinic of Lincolnwood.
The state Attorney General’s office filed suit [PDF] against Women’s Aid in August 2012 after the notorious abortion facility refused to pay the $36,000 fine assessed against it by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) following an September 2011 inspection that uncovered deplorable conditions and several serious violations.
But one party was noticeably absent from Judge Alexander White’s courtroom this morning. Neither owner Larisa Rozansky, nor any other Women’s Aid employee, nor any attorney was present on behalf of Women’s Aid.
Failing to appear in court for today’s hearing is merely the latest in a series of actions that betray Rozansky’s breathtaking arrogance and utter contempt for the law.
Horrific Conditions Force State to Take Action
When the IDPH paid a visit to Women’s Aid Clinic in 2011, it was the first time inspectors had been there in 15 years.
Following the inspection, Women’s Aid — located in the northern Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood — was assessed a fine of $36,000 for “violations including the clinic’s failure to perform CPR on a patient who died after a procedure” in 2009, according to an AP article.
That article also reported that Rozansky “told the AP her clinic was safe and she felt victimized by the surprise inspection,” which she called “unfair.”
Following the inspection — in which IDPH inspectors also discovered such violations as dusty equipment, lack of a supervising registered nurse, and “frozen TV dinners stored in a biohazard lab refrigerator that also held placental or fetal tissue,” the state issued an order on October 21, 2011 indefinitely suspending the license of Women’s Aid to operate as a pregnancy termination specialty center (PTSC), prohibiting the facility from performing surgical abortions, and assessing a $36,000 fine.
How bad were things at Women’s Aid? Really bad.
According to the IDPH:
The condition of the facility has deteriorated to a point where “the public interest, health, safety, or welfare imperatively requires” that the facility’s license be suspended on an emergency basis. (210 ILCS 5/10f(c)).
The full report from the IDPH’s September 7, 2011 inspection of Women’s Aid Clinic is posted here [PDF].
Women’s Aid could have contested their license suspension, but elected not to. On the contrary, Larisa Rozansky sent a letter [PDF] to IDPH attorney Eva Byerley on November 5 indicating that Women’s Aid would be closing on November 10, 2011.
Except Women’s Aid did not, in fact, close on November 10.
Then there is the matter of the $36,000 fine, which Women’s Aid was still required to pay.
Here’s where the story gets interesting.
State to Women’s Aid: Pay Your $36,000 Fine
On March 7, 2012, the IDPH’s William Bell took action, sending Women’s Aid a letter [PDF] via certified mail reminding the abortion facility that paying the $36,000 fine wasn’t optional. Bell also told Women’s Aid that if the facility did not pay the fine within 10 days of receiving the letter, the matter would be turned over to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office for collection proceedings.
Rozansky responded by sending a letter [PDF] to Bell on March 13 that must be seen to be believed:
Women’s Aid Clinic? What Women’s Aid Clinic?
The audacity of Rozansky’s letter is breathtaking. Women’s Aid Clinic no longer exists, and “the new company” — whatever that means — “has been formed and temporarily occupies this location”?
If Rozansky expected anyone to believe that, you’d think that she would, at the very least, have at least made it look like Women’s Aid Clinic had changed its name.
But just a few weeks later, the Women’s Aid Clinic website still said “Women’s Aid Clinic,” the signage in their building still said “Women’s Aid Clinic,” and their voicemail greeting was still telling callers that the number belonged to — wait for it — the “Women’s Aid Clinic.”
And so, contrary to co-owner Larisa Rozansky’s claims, even after she told the IDPH that Women’s Aid Clinic “does not exist,” the Women’s Aid Clinic was still very much in existence, advertising itself and doing business as such, and in possession of assets.
On April 5, 2012, I spoke with William Bell at the IDPH and explained to him what I set forth above. Per his request, I put it in writing and asked him to forward it to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and urge their office to begin proceedings to collect the $36,000 fine that Women’s Aid Clinic was required to pay to the IDPH.
He assured me he would, and, indeed, the matter was turned over to the AG’s office, which filed suit against Women’s Aid to collect the fine on August 28, 2012.
Women’s Aid Clinic Is Now Women’s Aid Center
Shortly before the AG’s office filed its suit, I checked the Women’s Aid website and found out that lo and behold, by this time they had, in fact, changed their name.
Women’s Aid Clinic was now Women’s Aid Center (this apparently was “the new company” that Rozansky referred to in her audacious letter to the IDPH).
Women’s Aid Clinic-now-it’s-Women’s Aid Center also moved from Lincolnwood to Chicago. (You’ll notice that the Women’s Aid website — formerly http://womensaidclinic.com — now redirects to http://womensaidcenter.com. You’ll also notice that but for the name change and address change, little else is changed. See a screenshot of the old website here.)
Why the move from Lincolnwood to Chicago?
One reason is obvious: If you’ve been slapped by the state with a $36,000 fine and you’re trying to avoid paying it, moving is probably not a bad idea.
But in the case of Women’s Aid, there’s a more pressing reason why they moved.
Women’s Aid currently owes their landlord, Hunter Properties, over $50,000 in back rent. Not surprisingly, Hunter Properties had Women’s Aid evicted [PDF] in May 2012.
Clearly, Women’s Aid Clinic/Center is in dire financial straits, so it’s no surprise that Rozansky failed to show up in court this morning.
At today’s hearing, Assistant Attorney General Vincent Kan told Judge White that Women’s Aid claimed to be having difficulty obtaining some documents from their bank. The judge said that he would give them 14 days to come up with their documents, and set the next hearing date for April 9.
Watch this space for developments.