Indiana: Court Issues Ruling on Fort Wayne Abortion Law, Pro-Lifers Say Victory
by Steven Ertelt
August 13, 2010
Fort Wayne, IN (LifeNews.com) — A judge has issued an initial ruling in the case abortion advocates brought against a new Fort Wayne, Indiana measure designed to keep women’s health and safety in mind. In April, the county commissioners approved an ordinance cracking down on botched abortions that injure women.
Because so many women suffer from botched abortions that require immediate follow-up medical care, local officials approved what it said is a needed ordinance.
It requires any abortion practitioners coming to Fort Wayne from out of town to inform a local hospital because they would not have proper admitting privileges to admit women who are victimized by failed abortions and need immediate medical care.
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys representing Allen County say the court order the judge issued denies most of abortion practitioner George Klopfer’s motion to stop critical aspects of the new Patient Safety Ordinance.
ADF tells LifeNews.com that means those provisions can go into effect and that the door is open for other Indiana counties to enact similar legislation.
A patients health is more important than an abortionists bottom line, said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Steven H. Aden.
The county simply can’t put the health and safety of patients at risk because one man wants to perform abortions without a sensible safety precaution that applies to all out-of-town physicians, not just abortionists," he said. "The ordinance is very clearly designed to make sure that patients receive appropriate treatment in a medical emergency that can arise after an itinerant physician has gone back home and is no longer available to care for the patient.
County Commissioner Nelson Peters also applauded the result.
He told the News Sentinel newspaper: The headlines about the other side winning’ amuse me. We got about everything we wanted. If we had negotiated a settlement with the ACLU, I couldn’t have asked for better.
Judge Miller’s injunction notes that Klopfer’s lawsuit was likely to succeed in its claim that the law violates the rights of the patients it is designed to protect.
But Ken Falk, legal director for the Indiana ACLU, said he calls that portion of the decision a victory.
He said he is "extremely pleased with the ruling. This ordinance would have risked the confidentiality of women seeking abortions in Fort Wayne and potentially endangered their safety."
"Dr. Klopfer has safely provided abortion in the county for many years. There’s no justification for suddenly imposing additional requirements on him, especially when they harm his patients and practice," Falk said.
But when the measure came up in August 2008, it came about because of problems with doctors having to take care of patients seen by Klopfer. He also does abortions in South Bend and Gary and physicians have had to care for patients who have been injured by the abortions and required hospitalizations.
Dr. Geoff Cly, a Fort Wayne gynecologist who has treated several of Klopfer’s patients after failed abortions, told the Fort Wayne newspaper at the time the bill is needed.
"I’m disappointed because patients are being harmed and the powers that be aren’t taking action to protect the women," Cly said. "How can we hold him accountable like the rest of surgeons? Admission privileges are one way. If anyone has any other ways, let me know."
In other states where the proposal has gained traction, it has resulted in shutting down abortion centers that can’t provide medical care for women in botched abortions.
Legislative attempts in 2007 and 2008 to enact statewide hospital admitting privileges requirements for doctors performing abortions were approved in the Indiana Senate with overwhelming numbers only to be defeated in the Indiana House by hostile committee assignments.
The new Fort Wayne rule requires that itinerant physicians–those who only have part-time or temporary offices in the county–must provide patients and area hospitals with 24-hour contact information and the name of a second physician designated for patient follow-up. The information is necessary in the event of medical emergencies that arise from the treatment itinerant doctors provide, as they are not always available after they leave the county and return home.
The county voted to retain ADF as legal counsel for the lawsuit, Fort Wayne Womens Health v. Board of Commissioners, at a meeting on June 11.
The suit was originally filed in Allen County Superior Court but was later transferred to federal court because of federal constitutional claims raised in the case.
According to Americans United for Life, a national pro-life group that promotes state legislation, abortion practitioners in eleven states are required to maintain local hospital admitting privileges.
These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
The Vanderburgh County ordinance is thought to be the first locally-passed ordinance addressing the issue.
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