Babies’ lives have been saved by continuing absence of South Bend abortion clinic

We have tried to keep readers informed about a Texas group’s attempt to open an abortion clinic in South Bend, which, to date, has been prevented by the Indiana State Health Department. And we think that’s good news.

Indiana health department data showed an 8.5 percent drop in abortions performed in Indiana in 2016, compared to the year before. That decrease (7,277 more babies were allowed to live) coincided with the closure of South Bend’s last abortion clinic in 2015, after the state revoked Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s license over allegations he violated state laws and regulations. Klopfer had also performed abortions in Fort Wayne. South Bend and Fort Wayne have both been without an abortion clinic ever since.

We agreed with the Indiana Right to Life’s opposition to an application from Whole Woman’s Health Alliance a year ago October to establish an abortion clinic in South Bend. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Jimtown, asked the Indiana State Health Department to reject the application.

Then we praised the state health commissioner in January for denying the Texas non-profit an Indiana license because the Austin family-planning clinic failed to provide requested information to support its application.

A court order was issued in the nonprofit’s favor in September, however, by Indianapolis administrative law judge Clare Deitchman, which reversed the health department’s rejection of the license application.

The latest news is that an Indiana State Health Department appeals panel voted 2-1 on Wednesday to reverse Judge Deitchman’s “recommended order” that called for granting a license to WWHA.

Jackie Appleman, executive director of St. Joseph County Right to Life, told the South Bend Tribune the panel’s decision was “a great victory for women and families” in South Bend, and said her organization will continue to “work tirelessly for the unborn.”

“We appreciate the findings of the appeals panel, but recognize that this process is likely to continue,” said Jeni O’Malley in a statement on behalf of the health department.

The department rejected WWHA’s application on the basis that it failed to meet requirements of having “reputable and responsible character,” and failed to disclose necessary information on its application.

Now that the panel has reversed Deitchman’s ruling, officials say WWHA has 30 days to file an appeal in Marion County.

“We’re going to continue,” Sharon Lau, Midwest advocacy director for WWHA, told The Associated Press. “We’re not giving up, and we will be pursuing all of our legal options.”

If the nonprofit wins an appeal in court and is granted a license, it would open its clinic at 3530 Lincoln Way W, and offer medication-induced abortions to women up to 10 weeks pregnant.

WWHA’s lead counsel Dipti Singh told the Tribune the nonprofit “is extremely committed to providing the care the community needs,” and said the state health department is “depriving the community of medical care.”

But we agree with St. Joseph County Right to Life’s Appleman, who counters that by saying the health department’s stand “is showing abortion is not needed or wanted in South Bend, and women have all of the resources that they need already.”

While we realize Wednesday’s latest pro-life victory may be short-lived, we at least are thankful that in the time since WWHA’s application was first rejected, many more babies may have been spared death by abortion. And we continue to support the continuing efforts of the state health department, Legislature and pro-life groups in trying to prevent the killing of unborn babies in Indiana.