Abortion Company Denied License to Open New Abortion Business in South Bend, Indiana

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Nov 29, 2018   |   11:03AM   |   South Bend, Indiana

An abortion facility may not open in Indiana after the state said it provided inaccurate information on its license application, an appeals panel ruled Wednesday.

Whole Woman’s Health Alliance has been trying to open a new abortion facility in South Bend for more than a year. The group is closely linked to Whole Woman’s Health, a Texas-based abortion chain that has amassed dozens of health and safety violations at its abortion facilities.

On Wednesday, an administrative panel ruled in favor of the Indiana State Department of Health decision to deny the abortion facility a license, the AP reports. Their decision overturned a judge’s ruling in September in favor of the abortion group.

“The appeals panel delivered great news for the health and safety of women and children in South Bend,” said Mike Fichter, president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life. “The effort to keep South Bend abortion-free has been ongoing for more than a year, and we hope this is the final resolution. But if the abortion operators continue their legal battle, we pray the state will continue their own diligent work so that the abortion facility never opens in South Bend.”

The panel did not provide any details about its decision Wednesday, but more information about the 2-1 vote will be released eventually, WSBT News 22 reports.

Sharon Lau, a spokesperson for the abortion group, said they will not give up the fight. Though Lau did not specifically mention an appeal, Lau told the AP that they are considering their legal options.

Health department spokeswoman Jeni O’Malley indicated that they are expecting an appeal from the abortion group. She said they appreciate the panel’s decision but recognize that the legal battle likely will continue.

Here’s more from the AP:

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During the hearing, health department lawyers argued that the proceedings turned on the question of how an “affiliate” is defined under the law. That’s because Whole Women’s Health Alliance, which is part of a broader constellation of related yet distinct clinics and contractors, refused to provide records for groups to which it is closely linked.

The state sought the records after several anti-abortion state senators raised “serious” … health and safety concerns about some of the groups, which have overlapping business and ownership ties to Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, agency lawyers said. The records are needed to “make an informed licensing decision,” said attorney Rebecca Brelage.

Whole Women’s Health Alliance attorney Rupali Sharma said the other organizations were legally distinct entities and the nonprofit provided all records that were required under state law. She said the agency withheld a license for “no proper reason.”

Late last year, pro-life advocates learned that the Texas-based abortion chain planned to open a new abortion facility in South Bend. Whole Woman’s Health has a shoddy reputation, including dozens of health and safety violations at its Texas facilities.

Health inspection reports show numerous problems with sterilizing and disinfecting instruments that were used on multiple women. The abortion chain also failed to provide a safe and sanitary environment at many of its Texas facilities, according to the state inspection reports. State inspectors also found rusty spots on suction machines that had the “likelihood to cause infection” and other issues that put women’s health in jeopardy.

These violations may have influenced Indiana state officials’ decision. According to the state Department of Health letter obtained by Indiana Right to Life, “Based upon the Department’s review, the Commissioner finds WWHA failed to meet the requirement that the Applicant is of reputable and responsible character and the supporting documentation provided inaccurate statements and information.”

The denial letter also states that a person may not provide abortions unless holding a license issued by the state. This means, for now, South Bend will remain abortion-free.

Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates and prominent female lawmakers have sent the strong message that they do not want another abortion business in their state. U.S. Congresswoman Jacki Walorski, of Indiana, sent a letter to the state department last fall to express her concerns.

“Indiana and its leaders have worked hard to make meaningful strides to combat the rate of abortions within the state,” Walorski wrote. “These crucial gains in protecting the sanctity of life would be undermined should the application receive the state’s approval.”

In 2017, the abortion group applied for a license to open a new facility at 3511 Lincoln Way W., an old chiropractic clinic. Its plans are to provide first-trimester abortion drugs at the facility, according to the Tribune.

South Bend, the home of Notre Dame University, has not had an abortion facility since 2015 when abortionist Ulrich Klopfer was forced to close. He faced 1,833 alleged abortion violations, including failures to report rapes of teen girls to authorities.