(PRESS RELEASE) Today, Indiana Doctor Ulrich Klopfer, owner of abortion clinic Fort Wayne Women’s Health, filed a legal challenge against a county ordinance that imposes a special set of stringent requirements on doctors who practice in Fort Wayne-Allen County, but happen to live outside of the area and do not have privileges to admit patients at local hospitals. Under a pretext of protecting the safety of patients in emergency situations, the ordinance requires, among other things, that such doctors secure a “physician designee” and provide various officials and entities with that physician’s name as well as around-the-clock contact information. Doctors also must allow unjustified and unlimited review of their patients’ medical records by health department officials. Yet there are no protections to ensure that any of the information remains confidential, despite the fact that abortion providers and patients are frequently harassed.
“Medical providers, including our client Dr. Klopfer, already follow a significant number of laws and regulations from the state of Indiana, including emergency procedures,” said Kenneth Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana. “These additional rules do nothing to protect patients’ safety and only serve to compromise Dr. Klopfer’s ability to provide his patients with quality medical care.”
Dr. Klopfer, represented by ACLU Indiana and the Center for Reproductive Rights, argues that the county has no authority under Indiana law to regulate an area that the state has already regulated. In addition, the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague, and therefore, extremely difficult to understand and nearly impossible to comply with. As such, Dr. Klopfer’s practice, the only provider of surgical abortions in Allen County and within 100 miles, may be forced to shut down. The measure also allows a health official to review any and all patient medical records, without removing any identifying information, whenever a complaint is lodged regardless of whether the complaint is substantiated. That provision puts the patients’ confidentiality at risk and may very well chill them from seeking services in the first place.
“This law poses a serious threat to patients’ privacy,” said Suzanne Novak, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The ordinance is really just a duplicitous attempt to deeply limit, or eliminate, access to abortion in the Fort Wayne area.”