New Jersey Cracks Down on Rogue Abortion Provider. What Took So Long?
The move is a welcome step toward protecting women in the states in which clinics of criminal abortion provider Steven Brigham have operated, but the question remains as to why it took regulators so long to act.
New Jersey last month moved to suspend the medical license of Dr. Vikram H. Kaji, a business partner of criminal abortion provider Steven C. Brigham.
In addition to his affiliation with Brigham—whose botched and illegal abortions in at least six states over more than two decades have left women maimed and at grave risk of death—Kaji himself has had a career blighted by serious misconduct.
His medical license was suspended in 1993 after admitting to allegations that he had sexually abused patients in Pennsylvania, and in 2013, New Jersey regulators knew that Kaji had a “cognitive impairment” that required him to keep detailed written notes of all patient encounters, and to avoid any complex medical treatment.
Now, New Jersey’s attorney general wants to suspend or revoke his medical license again, to permanently ban him from acting as a medical director at any of the Brigham-affiliated clinics in New Jersey, and to impose other penalties on him.
While the latest move is welcomed as a step toward protecting women in the states in which Brigham’s clinics have operated, the question remains as to why it took regulators so long to act given the extensive warnings about Brigham’s continued involvement in his chain of abortion clinics.
Rewire reported in July 2013 that legitimate abortion providers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania had been warning authorities in both states for years about the illegal and dangerous ways that Brigham was conducting abortions, especially abortions after 14 weeks’ gestation.
In August 2010, Brigham’s conduct had resulted in the near death of an 18-year-old patient whom he had conveyed from New Jersey to Maryland in order to skirt New Jersey’s laws, which prohibited Brigham from performing later abortions. Even as Rewire was reporting the extensive efforts that legitimate providers had made to alert regulators to Brigham’s illegal and dangerous conduct, Brigham maintained an interest in up to 15 clinics in multiple states.
Yet, it wasn’t until fall of 2014 that New Jersey finally stripped Brigham of his medical license. While Brigham’s license had been temporarily suspended in 2010, it wasn’t until October 8, 2014, that New Jersey revoked it.
What has now come to light is that, two days before Brigham’s license was revoked, he and Kaji signed a document that transferred 100 percent ownership of Brigham’s chain of clinics over to Kaji.
That move was to comply with the New Jersey Medical Board’s determination that Brigham could no longer have any “financial interest” in abortion clinics in the state.
Documents and interviews by New Jersey investigators show that the transfer agreement was merely a ploy designed to give the impression that Brigham was complying.
When New Jersey investigators inspected the Brigham-affiliated clinics this April, they found Kaji on site. But Kaji denied any ownership of the clinics, insisting that he was still simply the medical director—directly contradicting the signed legal papers that he and Brigham had provided to the state.
Kaji doubled down on these claims when he was giving testimony under oath to the medical board in early May. He told the board that he was not the owner, and that Brigham remained “the only one who runs the show.”
This sham arrangement has now resulted in Kaji being charged with aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine in New Jersey.
It is difficult to explain how Brigham’s scheme succeeded for eight months even while he was under close scrutiny of New Jersey regulators.
Kaji’s relationship with Brigham is longstanding. Kaji first began working with Brigham in 1996, just as his three-year suspension for sexual misconduct came to an end.
Moreover, Brigham’s track record shows a pattern of employing troubled physicians to provide a front for his illegal activities.
In Maryland, Mansour Panah served as medical director at the Elkton facility run by Brigham. Panah also had a history of sexual misconduct with patients, and voluntarily surrendered his medical license in Maryland last October, conceding that he was “professionally, mentally or physically incompetent” and had practiced medicine “with an unauthorized person or aid[ed] an unauthorized person in the practice of medicine.”
Pennsylvania also suspended the license of another Brigham associate, Michael Basco, who had allowed staff to administer medication abortion to patients despite not having the required training or credentials to do so. Maryland records show that Basco’s suspension in that state has ended; he is now on probation.
In other words, having taken two decades to finally crack down on Brigham, New Jersey’s regulators once again delayed proper oversight of his operations, allowing him to continue to involve himself in women’s care for months—despite overwhelming evidence that Brigham won’t be easily deterred from operating his businesses.
While state and national politicians are focused on introducing new and medically unnecessary laws with the spurious aim of protecting women from the negligible harms of abortion, some states continue to fail or stall when it comes to enforcing sensible, existing laws that could prevent known criminals such as Brigham and his acolytes from putting women and fetuses at risk of harm.