GREEN BAY - The only clinic that provides abortions in Green Bay will end the medical procedure next week, according to federal court documents obtained by FOX 11 On Special Assignment.
The Ob-Gyn Associates clinic is familiar to many. It's located on Webster Avenue on the city's east side next door to Bellin Hospital in the Medical Arts Building. But FOX 11 has learned the practice is being sold, and the new owner, Bellin Health, will not provide abortions.
For decades, protesters have walked the sidewalks around the Medical Arts Building on Webster Avenue. Their vigils and prayers have always been for abortions performed inside the building would come to an end.
"Our prayers have been answered if indeed that's the case," said anti-abortion activist Jim Ball.
Those answered prayers come in the form of a business deal between Ob-Gyn Associates and Bellin Health. The obstetrics and gynecology practice owned by Dr. Robert DeMott, according to federal documents, has been sold to Bellin Health System, effective Aug. 1.
DeMott did not respond to our request for comment, but he confirms the sale and more in the federal court documents related to Planned Parenthood's lawsuit fighting Wisconsin's new restrictive abortion law.
In the declaration by DeMott, he acknowledges the sale to Bellin, indicates he will become an employee of Bellin, and as a condition of employment with Bellin he says, "I may not provide abortion services to any patient."
Bellin Health System officials declined an on camera interview, instead issuing this statement to FOX 11, saying, "In accordance with Bellin Health policy, we cannot verify or provide comments on potential or existing business negotiations."
However, we were told a statement would be coming Aug. 1 - the same day Bellin is slated to take ownership of Doctor DeMott's medical practice.
Jeff Mason is the former Chief Executive Officer of BayCare Clinics in Northeast Wisconsin. Now a medical consultant, he says Bellin's acquiring of Ob-Gyn Associates is a good business move.
"I think the service of abortion is an inflammatory one that causes a lot of emotion and negative branding and I don't believe any healthcare provider is well served by being in that business," said Mason.
In addition to eliminating negative attention, Mason says the trend has been hospitals taking more control over employee physicians.
"It's important for hospitals to have a dependable quality group of physicians they know are available who are available to treat the needs of their patients."
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin officials have another view. They believe with abortion services not longer offered at all in Green Bay, not all patient needs will be met.
"I think there are many problems when you have people dictating whether or not an individual woman can get the care that she and her doctor decide that she needs," said Nicole Safar of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
Planned Parenthood is not affiliated with Ob-Gyn Associates, and indicates it will continue to focus instead on family planning services.
Planned Parenthood indicated it is not actively pursuing another clinic to offer abortion services.
With abortion services coming to an end in Green Bay, the only other place in Northeast Wisconsin for patients to receive abortion services is a clinic in the Fox Valley. But if Wisconsin's new law imposing restrictions on abortions is upheld, that clinic would close, leaving patients to travel to clinics in Milwaukee or Madison.
The fight over abortion is far from over, though. Mason says the trend is for hospitals to continue to take more control away from individual doctors. And Planned Parenthood expects more restrictive abortion legislation in the next year.
But for Ball, he says he'll rely on prayer.
"Do you think your presence itself has made a point to the hospital to clean this up?" we asked Ball.
"We can say this: we've got an inside source who made it clear without our peaceful prayerful vigil out here, this would not be happening."
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