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In a rare application of trademark infringement law, a federal judge in Louisiana has issued a temporary injunction against a man alleged to have set up a phony medical referral center to delay women from having abortions until it was too late. Judge Stanwood R. Duval of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that William A. Graham must no longer advertise his center as a health care referral service and must change its name, which was very similar to an abortion clinic in the area. The injunction was brought against Graham by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the Causeway Medical Clinic in New Orleans. The clinic sued Graham’s center, the “Causeway Center for Women” for trademark infringement, as well as, among other things, false advertising, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, breach of duty and tortuous interference with business relations. Choice Inc. of Texas v. Graham, No. 04-1581 (E.D. La.). “We didn’t have to look very hard. It was so outrageous the tactics taken” by Graham, said Suzanne Novak, staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It was clear he was infringing on [the clinic's] name, and it was clear he was falsely holding himself out as an abortion referral service.” Douglas Lichtman, professor at the University of Chicago Law School, said it is important in trademark law to allow an individual or company the ability to offer a different point of view to a certain base, but they should not be allowed to try and trick or confuse people. “Intuitively we can see why the court would intervene,” he said. “In a perfect world we could make it so this guy could get his message out, but not in a way that tricks women and costs them what they are trying to find.” POSSIBLE CLASS ACTION The original suit was filed on June 7 and represented a physician and four patients. But Novak said they are now trying to make it a class action. Novak said she has been contacted by at least 15 women — many of whom were forced to carry to term or undergo procedures that were more expensive — allegedly because of Graham’s consultation. Every time the case is in the news, Novak says she receives more calls. The women allegedly included one who had already given birth to a child with hemophilia B and wanted an abortion for her second pregnancy, because she was fearful of the demands of raising two children with the illness. The child was born and also has the disease. Another woman’s pregnancy was the result of a rape, but Novak alleged Graham strung her along until her 27th week of pregnancy. “Now she has the child and every minute she looks at [the baby] she’s reminded of the rape she went through,” Novak said. Louisiana law allows a woman to get an abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. In an Aug. 5 interview, Graham said he started his center 15 years ago to provide women with alternative medical options than those available at abortion clinics, which he claimed offered substandard care. As part of the judge’s order, the phone number for Graham’s center was disconnected, and attempts to contact him following the ruling were unsuccessful. Graham represented himself in court. PROPER CARE? Graham said the center was private and nonprofit, but he would not release details such as how many physicians he works with or how many women he has treated. He said he doesn’t give any medical advice or make any medical claims, and the information he tells the women “is already out in the public realm.” He also declined to discuss his stance on abortion. “This is not a question of abortion. That’s been settled — it’s a legal procedure,” he said. “This is about proper health care. When you look at it from this perspective, it’s not a matter of pro-life or pro-choice. It’s a matter of pro-women.” Novak, however, doesn’t think that Graham has done much for his patients. “There is no evidence he has ever provided a referral for any woman for any service for any doctor,” she said. “There’s a plethora of evidence that says he promised to provide referrals he never intended to give out.”

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