Reprising his testimony to a state Senate committee in January, Fort Wayne obstetrician-gynecologist Geoffrey Cly on Friday asked the three commissioners to enact an ordinance requiring doctors who perform invasive medical procedures in their offices to have privileges at local hospitals, which would subject unaffiliated doctors to greater peer review and follow-up, thereby protecting their patients from shoddy medical care.
Although Cly never said so specifically, a primary target clearly was George Klopfer, the Illinois osteopath who owns and operates Fort Wayne’s only abortion clinic at 2210 Inwood Drive. Cly said he has treated three women for post-abortion complications – at least two of them Klopfer’s patients – and believes more women will be unnecessarily endangered and perhaps even die if the county does not act.
On one occasion, Cly said, a 20-year-old came to the emergency room with an infection, fever, hemorrhaging and complaining of nausea and pain. Inside the woman’s uterus, he said, were decaying bits of fetal tissue – pieces of a baby, if you prefer – that had been overlooked following the abortion. The young woman’s uterus had to be removed but probably could have been saved with adequate follow-up care, Cly said.
“After caring for these three women and correcting the complications that occurred under the questionable care of another physician, I felt it necessary to become involved in this process to protect other women and patients from needlessly suffering,” said Cly, who practices with Northeast OB/GYN.
Cly’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was in support of a bill that would have required doctors performing abortions to have hospital privileges and to tell patients where they could receive follow-up care. The bill died in the House, however, forcing proponents to adopt a county-by-county strategy. A proposal similar to Cly’s recently passed in Evansville, according to Cathie Humbarger, executive director of the Allen County Right to Life Committee, who accompanied Cly to Friday’s meeting.
But the proposed ordinance would also cover doctors performing any invasive surgery in an office setting, including biopsies. Many procedures once limited to hospitals are now performed in offices, Cly said, because the financial reimbursement is greater.
Without the kind of routine review that comes with hospital privileges, Cly said, “there’s no quality assurance that tracks complications or asks what happened and why.” Cly said he would support Klopfer should he attempt to gain hospital privileges because it would improve the level of care for patients at the Inwood Drive clinic.
Without a hospital-based review of patient care, Cly told the commissioners, federal privacy laws prevent doctors from discussing individual patients’ cases – potentially allowing problems to go unreported and unaddressed.
This is not the first time abortion foes have attempted to limit the procedure through what some might call “back-door” tactics. In 1999, for example, the legislature considered a bill requiring abortion clinics to meet the same equipment and staffing requirements as other outpatient surgical centers. And in 2006 the state passed a law that established licensing requirements for abortion clinics and required clinics to meet certain physical requirements, such as the number of exits, width of hallways and the size and function of rooms. The 2006 law, in fact, is probably one reason why the abortion clinic moved from its longtime location on Webster Street to the Inwood Drive building, which Klopfer bought for $319,200 in 2005.
But if abortion-rights activists are serious about wanting to keep the procedure “safe” – for the woman, if not the unborn child – they should welcome efforts to improve the standard of care provided by Klopfer and others. Instead, Planned Parenthood criticized the 1999 bill, saying some clinics would be forced to close if they were forced to meet the same medical standards as other clinics.
That – plus the many lawsuits pro-life groups say have been filed against Klopfer for alleged post-abortion complications – is a powerful argument in favor of Cly’s proposal. The three commissioners didn’t vote Friday, but seemed appropriately sympathetic to closing a loophole that allows a two-tiered medical system to exist in Allen County.
“This is a quality-of-care issue,” Commissioner Nelson Peters said. “And if it takes an abortion doctor down, so be it.”