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A COLUMN BY KEVIN LEININGER

Pro-life OB-GYN offers to help abortion doc

Controversial bid has people up in arms.

Saturday, July 17, 2010 - 10:38 am

Fort Wayne's most outspoken pro-life doctor has just offered to join forces – in a manner of speaking – with the city's best-known “abortion provider.”

Is it a clever political move? A lamb-and-lion sign of the coming apocalypse?

No, insists Dr. Geoffrey Cly – just a genuine attempt to protect women's health by providing the post-abortion emergency backup required by an Allen County ordinance that Dr. George Klopfer claims he has been unable to find.

Klopfer, an Illinois osteopath who has performed abortions in Fort Wayne for decades, made news earlier this month when he claimed in court to have received a death threat to his unlisted home phone from someone in the Fort Wayne area. The call came after Klopfer challenged the legality of the new county ordinance requiring out-of-town doctors without local hospital admitting privileges to provide emergency contact information. In a statement filed with the court, Klopfer said he has been unable to find a local doctor able to serve as his emergency backup because few have the skill or desire to do so.

But Cly, who practices with Northeast OB-GYN, clearly has the skill. And in a letter to Klopfer, he has now expressed his willingness to serve in that capacity – for free, if necessary.

“The article in the newspaper said (Klopfer) couldn't find anybody, so I'm sending the letter to let him know I'm here. The goal is to improve the quality of care in Fort Wayne. There are no other motives,” said Cly, who first advocated the county's ordinance two years ago and has testified in support of similar legislation in the state General Assembly. Cly said he has treated at least two women for serious complications after abortions performed by Klopfer.

Klopfer's opposition to the ordinance is based in part on privacy concerns. But if Klopfer were willing to designate him as his emergency backup, Cly said, there would be no danger of violating patient-confidentiality laws. “I would be treating only people seeking care,” he added.

If this were poker, Cly's offer might be seen as calling his opponent's bluff. After all, Klopfer, Planned Parenthood and other defenders of abortion on demand would oppose the county's new law regardless of Klopfer's ability to find emergency medical help.

But this is real life, where the stakes are considerably higher. And the fact is that, right now, there is no system in place covering access to emergency post-operative care for patients of Klopfer and other “itinerant” doctors.

Cathie Humbarger, executive director of the Allen County Right to Life Committee, has rebuked any threats of violence against Klopfer or anybody else. But she nevertheless appreciates the political blow inflicted by Cly's offer, because “it negates the argument that women's choices (about abortion) would be limited (if the ordinance is upheld) because Klopfer can't find a backup.”

Even though Humbarger said some on the pro-life movement knew Klopfer's home address long before he was compelled to list it on paperwork required by the new law, Cly said he doesn't know where Klopfer lives. The letter will be sent to his clinic on Inwood Drive.

In strictly political terms, that would be difficult to do, since Cly's help would remove one of Klopfer's main objections to the county's law: namely, that nobody is willing or able to serve as the emergency surrogate the ordinance requires.

But, having raised the issue himself, Klopfer is hardly in a position to reject help from any legitimate source.

Given what he does for a living, it's unrealistic to expect Klopfer to protect the lives of the unborn. But he should care about the safety of his patients at least as much as he so obviously values his own.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel.
E-mail Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com