Michiana's sole abortion provider, Whole Woman's Health Alliance, announces closure
This week,Whole Woman’s Health Alliance announced it is closing its clinic on Lincoln Way West in South Bend due to Indiana’s near-total ban on abortions.
In a statement on Monday, Whole Woman’s Health Alliance called the state’s anti-abortion legislation “politically driven and medically unnecessary" as it announced its decision to close the South Bend clinic. Whole Woman’s Health Alliance is the only abortion provider in Michiana and is one of seven clinics in the state.
Whole Woman's Health president Amy Hagstrom Miller said there wasn't a specific event that precipitated the closure of the clinic, but rather an "environment of hostility" that made it hard to retain enough staff to keep operations open. In fact, the clinic hasn't seen any patients seeking abortions since December.
"It's difficult to recruit staff, it's difficult to recruit doctors into that environment with an uncertain future. We had to make the very tough decision that we can't operate in that environment of hostility and uncertainty any longer," Hagstrom Miller said.
The provider’s decision to leave South Bend comes as the future of abortion in Indiana remains murky.
Indiana Republicans last summer passed a near-total abortion ban after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively overturning Roe v. Wade. The ban prohibits abortions except in limited cases involving serious health risks to the mother, rape, incest or lethal fetal anomaly.
However, a judge blocked enforcement of the ban in December and the state’s supreme court is still weighing the issue. Whole Woman’s Health Alliance was one of many organizations in Indiana that sued to prevent the ban from going into effect, but the organization withdrew its name from the lawsuit on Monday.
Whole Woman’s Health opened in South Bend in 2019 after an initial struggle with state licensing agencies. The provider announced it was closing last August when state Republicans initially passed the ban. However, the clinic reopened for appointments in October when the state supreme court put a temporary halt to the new law.
The lack of a decision from the Indiana Supreme Court has created uncertainty for many doctors and staff who provide abortions, including Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who Hagstrom Miller said is a physician for Whole Woman's Health. Bernard's recent ordeal at the hands of Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is an extreme example, but opposition from state agencies has hurt abortion providers all over the state.
Hagstrom Miller also said the clinic in South Bend has seen instances of anti-abortion protestors harassing staff and patients as they enter the building.
"There's lots of layers of anti-abortion forces at work here," she said. "It's not just any one thing. It's a tremendous array of challenges we face as abortion providers in Indiana."
Whole Woman’s Health performed over 1,100 medical abortions, the organization’s release said. The clinic will still answer phone calls and refer patients to other centers.
The nearest abortion providers to South Bend will now be Planned Parenthood Kalamazoo and Family Planning Associates Chicago.