Why a license for a proposed South Bend abortion clinic was properly turned down

By Dave Andrusko

When last we reported [here and here], a three-judge panel of the Indiana Department of Health’s executive board had voted to block the opening of a new abortion facility in South Bend, Indiana, by the Texas-based Whole Woman’s Health Alliance’s (WWHA).

Were its license ever approved, the clinic would perform chemical abortions through ten weeks of pregnancy.

On Tuesday the panel explained why it voted 2-1 to reverse Indianapolis administrative judge Clare Deitchman’s “recommended order” to grant the license.

As Calvin Freiburger explained, the panel’s November 30 decision came “after an ‘unprecedented’ period of deliberation exceeding 90 minutes.”

Each side was given ten minutes to make its case, during which health department lead counsel Rebecca Brelage argued that Deitchman had failed to consider all the state’s evidence against WWHA, namely the “central issue” that the organization failed to submit adequate information about its affiliates. The group didn’t disclose WWHA founder Amy Hagstrom Miller’s ownership of six for-profit clinics, which WWHA argues don’t count as “affiliates.”

And that was the crux of the discussion/explanation in yesterday’s hearing, according to Ted Booker of the South Bend Tribune — the connection between the non-profit WWHA clinics and the for profit clinics, and Miller’s transparency, or lack thereof.

Miller insisted her “for-profit clinics and management company aren’t affiliated with the nonprofit because it has no owners, and its board supervises Hagstrom Miller,” Booker reported. “The [State Department of Health] has argued that Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, founded by Amy Hagstrom Miller, is affiliated with for-profit clinics and a management company that she owns. As a result, it has argued that records for those entities should have been provided as part of the application process.”

Noteworthy is that “Those records were requested by the department after it received feedback from state legislators about potential health and safety issues, but the nonprofit didn’t provide them.”

In a nutshell, citing state law, the panel concluded “two entities are affiliated” if they are “under the common control of another person.”

What were some of the aforementioned “potential health and safety issues”? According to Freiburger

WWHA also runs abortion facilities in Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Texas. A state health department report in 2017 found numerous health and safety offenses at their Texas locations from 2011 to 2017, including rusty equipment, failing to properly disinfect and sterilize instruments between use, lacking proper written operation procedures, improper storage of hazardous chemicals, unsanitary surfaces, failing to follow up with patients, holes in the floor, and more.

As NRL News Today reported, back in January 2018, the State Health Department rejected the license application for the clinic because it concluded that the proposed abortion clinic “failed to meet requirements of having ‘reputable and responsible character’ and didn’t disclose necessary information on its application.”

In a press release issued last October, St. Joseph County Right to Life and Indiana Right to Life explained that St. Joseph County had been abortion-free since Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, the abortionist who had his medical license suspended for health and safety violations, ceased doing abortions there in November 2015.

“Abortion activists in South Bend have been voicing their desire for an abortion facility in town since Klopfer’s closure, so it’s not surprising they lured a business to attempt to locate there,” said Mike Fichter, President and CEO of Indiana Right to Life. “Abortion data from 2016 shows us that abortions on St. Joseph County women were down nearly 50 percent from 2015, the last year Klopfer did abortions in South Bend. In 2016 when women had to travel out of town instead of just down the street for an abortion, they had more time to consider the positive alternatives to abortion, and seek help from free resources like South Bend’s local pregnancy resource centers.”

The Texas-based Whole Woman’s Health Alliance may ring a bell with pro-lifers. Its management company, Whole Woman’s Health, was the group involved in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the 2016 Supreme Court decision which struck down part of a Texas abortion clinic regulations law.

WWHA has 30 days to appeal the panel’s order.