Indiana State Department of Health revokes Klopfer’s license, Women’s Pavilion forced to halt abortion services
Friday, November 6, marked the final day for abortions performed at the Women’s Pavilion in South Bend after longtime abortion doctor Ulrich “George” Klopfer withdrew his appeal to the revocation of his operating license. The Women’s Pavilion was the only abortion facility in South Bend and northwest Indiana.
In January, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) filed its first complaint regarding the South Bend operating license of Klopfer, whom they charged to be in violation of Indiana Code 16-21 and various health and safety regulations. Their second complaint followed in June. An investigation revealed Klopfer’s violation of other regulations such as Indiana’s 18-hour notification law requiring a woman to give her voluntary and informed consent, view the fetal ultrasound, and hear the fetal heartbeat at least 18 hours before an abortion. The ISDH filed to revoke Klopfer’s South Bend operating license.
Since June, Indiana law has allowed Klopfer to continue performing abortions while he appealed the ISDH’s decision. He was set to appear in a potentially three-day-long hearing before an administrative law judge beginning on November 4. Instead, he reached a settlement with the state to withdraw his appeal, thereby giving up the license that enabled him to perform abortions at the Women’s Pavilion, in exchange for the state dropping charges of health and safety violations.
Jeanette Burdell, Executive Director of Saint Joseph County Right to Life, spoke with the Rover about her group’s role in the legal proceedings.
“As part of our advocacy work, we monitor the abortion facility very closely,” Burdell said. “Our office is located next door, which enables us to monitor it physically for any missteps and illegal activity, but we also do this by reviewing publicly available reports from the health department. The two main types of reports are … terminated pregnancy reports (TPRs) which primarily contain statistical data, and … survey reports, which show clinic deficiencies to Indiana health code and Indiana abortion law. The Women’s Pavilion is notorious for having many deficiencies each time it is surveyed.”
Burdell explained, “While we have filed complaints on these unenforced laws for years, these complaints are finally being taken seriously. In 2014, the Women’s Pavilion had 27 violations (has had as many as 54 in a year), yet the average for all other surgical outpatient centers in our area was 0.5. Some of these were egregious, such as anesthesia misuse, poor infection control, and untrained staff, she said. “These pose a great threat to the health and safety of the women seeking [Klopfer’s] services. Regarding the TPRs, we filed 1,202 complaints from the 2011 and 2012 reports, which included many errors and omissions, and which revealed an abortion on a 13-year-old girl that was not reported within the 3-day period as required by law.
“My personal view is that this is a positive action that the pro-life movement can take—monitoring clinic activities and simply getting the laws on the books enforced. We are very grateful to Governor Pence’s administration for enforcing the law. Some have criticized him for not doing more, but they do not understand the inner workings of the State Health Department and politics in general,” Burdell concluded.
Gerard Bradley, Professor of Law, spoke to the Rover about the pro-life movement’s recourse to legal actions. “Since abortion-on-demand was introduced to America by a Court in 1973, some of the work of protecting every life from conception has to be legal work, much of it aimed to rolling back Roe v. Wade,” Bradley said. “Some of the necessary legal work has also been in legislatures, where in many states lawmakers have hemmed in Roe, and done what they reasonably can to make sure that the abortion industry at least resembles the real practice of medicine.
“Probably the most significant legislative measure so far passed (in 38 states, and by the federal government) have protected unborn children from lethal violence by making it a crime for anyone in the world—with one exception—to kill or even harm an unborn child,” he continued. “Unfortunately, that one exception is the unborn child’s mother, when she seeks a lawful abortion.”
For years, Klopfer traveled to perform abortions in three Indiana cities: Gary, Fort Wayne, and South Bend. Two years ago, investigations began at the state and national level after hundreds of complaints were charged against Klopfer from Allen and Lake counties.
In December 2013, Klopfer lost his back-up physician with admitting privileges required by county and state laws in Fort Wayne and became unable to perform abortions in the city. He continued to refer patients to the South Bend Women’s Pavilion for abortions. After the Indiana State Department of Health reported on safety and health violations at his Gary facility, Klopfer gave up his operating license there as well.
The Women’s Pavilion was Klopfer’s last remaining abortion facility. Now, with the loss of his South Bend license, Klopfer no longer has an abortion license in Indiana. In addition, his medical license is in jeopardy after 1,833 alleged abortion-related complaints by the Indiana Attorney General’s office. The Indiana Medical Licensing Board will hold a hearing on December 3 and could strip his license or take alternate disciplinary action against him.
The Women’s Pavilion remains open for referrals and information for women seeking abortions. After 90 days, the Women’s Pavilion and Klopfer could apply for a new license.
Burdell addressed St. Joseph County Right to Life’s plans moving forward. “We will be proactive in preventing the next abortion provider in our area,” she said. “That will include watching for an expansion into abortion services by our local Planned Parenthood on Grape Road. While we celebrate this battle won, we know the war continues as long as women are faced with crisis pregnancies, since they may go elsewhere for abortion services. We will continue, and hopefully expand, our media campaign to reach these women and direct them to the local pregnancy resource centers.”
Father Bill Miscamble, CSC, President of Notre Dame’s chapter of University Faculty for Life (UFL), told the Rover: “Our UFL members are grateful that abortions will no longer be performed at the Women’s Pavilion, and we trust that no further license will be granted to any abortion clinic in our area at any future point. We are deeply grateful to all the dedicated folk in organizations like St. Joseph County Right to Life and the Life Center who have worked so hard over the years to bring the practice of abortion to an end here.”
“We are also about to embark on an adoption campaign, to destigmatize the option of adoption to birth mothers and their support systems,” Burdell added. “By educating about the positives of adoption over abortion, we hope to save many lives.”
Senior Janelle Wanzek, president of Notre Dame Right to Life, spoke to the Rover about the club’s response. “[Notre Dame Right to Life] was thrilled to hear the recent news about the suspension of Dr. Klopfer’s abortion license by the Indiana State Department of Health,” she said. “This news means more women in the area will be choosing life for their children! Our club has been very active with the pro-life community of South Bend and will continue to be. … [We] will not cease … our involvement of spreading the pro-life movement in the community.”
Wanzek noted that, because the Women’s Pavilion will remain open and will refer women elsewhere for abortion, the Right to Life groups will continue to be present outside the clinic. “[We will be] sidewalk counseling and praying. We will pray for the past children lost in the clinic, for mothers in crisis currently looking for referrals, and for the clinic to remain inoperable.”
She also elaborated on Right to Life’s involvement in the South Bend community: “We’ve worked with St. Joseph County’s Right to Life office training students to be sidewalk counselors. RTL sends students to the Women’s Care Center to volunteer, we also throw baby showers for the mothers at the WCC with our commission called Project Mom. We helped also with the Life Center and Holy Family Adoption Agency, two other pro-life advocates in the community that provide resources and options for mothers in crisis pregnancies.
“With Klopfer’s medical license in question and multiple complaints of malpractice filed against him, it was clear that women were not in good hands medically at the clinic,” Wanzek continued. “The pro-life movement, our club, and I dream of the day that all women can be properly educated on their fertility, reproduction cycle, pregnancy, and their options when facing a crisis pregnancy. We will keep fighting for this and fighting for life.”
Burdell also addressed her group’s interest in women’s health. “Abortion is not healthcare, but health harm, both to the unborn child and to the mother—potentially harmful to her not only physically, but also psychologically and spiritually,” she said. “Unsafe abortions have no place in our community, even though some would argue that in the name of ‘access’. Regardless of which side of the issue you’re on, we should all want women to be safe. We at St. Joseph County Right to Life are very interested in true health care for women and their children, both born and unborn, and of all people because of their inherent human dignity. This is what it means to be truly pro-life.”
“All those who are genuinely interested in women’s health will welcome this development given the abortion clinic’s numerous violations of health and safety regulations. It is a real boost to fostering the culture of life in our community,” Miscamble concluded.
Stephanie Reuter is a sophomore PLS and theology major. She has recently become aware of her dependence on coffee. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.