Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against Metairie, Louisiana, resident William Graham on behalf of three women, a Metairie medical facility, one of their physicians and his patients. The lawsuit accuses Graham of intentionally interfering with women’s efforts to exercise their constitutional right to obtain an abortion through false advertising, trademark infringement, fraud, and various forms of criminal and emotional manipulation.
In a duplicitous two-pronged approach, William Graham lures his victims by co-opting the name of a well-known medical provider, the Causeway Medical Clinic, and by falsely advertising that he provides abortion referral services, thereby perpetuating that false impression. The lawsuit charges that since 1993, he has advertised or listed his operation in the phone book under headings specifically designated for organizations that provide abortion services or referrals.
Graham, however, provides neither. Instead, he strings countless women along for months, promising to connect them with doctors in private practice for a bargain price. He claims to have "set up" appointments, and then repeatedly "reschedules" them. All the while, he discusses the women’s medical conditions with them, wrongly advising them that the longer they wait to have an abortion, the less risk there will be to their health. He has every intention to prevent the women from having an abortion while the procedure is still legal.
Some of Graham’s victims testified that they were forced to carry their pregnancies to term against their wishes, jeopardizing their health, risking their education and even endangering their lives. Others were able to have abortions but had to delay the procedures, increasing the risk. In all cases, the women have suffered extreme mental anguish either by not being able to exercise their right to choose or by riding an emotional rollercoaster, not knowing when or if they’d be able to terminate their pregnancies.
One plaintiff, Priscilla Cabrera, said that she endured weeks of Graham’s deception before she had an abortion at a legitimate medical facility. "Besides being scared, I was also extremely frustrated. Mr. Graham had put me off for many weeks," Cabrera recalled. "He told me that everything was going to be fine, that we had to wait for it to be safe, that he was concerned about my health and that he was on my side."
For the last decade, the anti-choice movement has set up operations similar to Graham’s to dupe women into contacting them, only to intimidate them and prevent them from having abortions.
"It is unconscionable that this man purposely lured women into his lair under false pretenses, and then schemed to win over their confidence -- all to further his own anti-choice agenda," said Suzanne Novak, Center for Reproductive Rights attorney. "Operations like this absolutely disregard health concerns these women may have and what may be going on in their lives, both personally and financially. The bottom line is that they deny these women their basic constitutional right to decide what to do with their own bodies and, essentially, their own lives. We intend to put a stop to it."
The plaintiffs in this case are Causeway Medical Clinic, Dr. James DeGueurce and his patients, Priscilla Cabrera, and two other women. The plaintiffs are filing a class action suit on behalf of other women who have been similarly duped. The plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Morrison & Foerster of New York, and Rittenberg and Samuel of New Orleans.
Women looking for legitimate abortion referrals should call the National Abortion Federation Hotline, (800) 772-9100. The hotline offers providers in the caller’s area, referrals to funding sources, factual information about pregnancy, abortion and state abortion restrictions, and confidential support.