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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ind. Law - Still more on "Physician ordinance adopted by Allen County"

Updating yesterday's ILB entry, Amanda Iacone's lengthy story today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is headed "Abortion doctor sues to overturn county law." Some quotes:

FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne’s lone surgical abortion provider is suing to stop a new county ordinance from being enforced.

Dr. George Klopfer, operator of Fort Wayne Women’s Health, is challenging a county law that requires doctors who don’t live in Allen County or surrounding counties or who don’t have admitting privileges to area hospitals to provide contact information to area emergency rooms and the local health department.

Klopfer lives in Illinois but is based out of South Bend. He also performs abortions in Fort Wayne and Gary.

The lawsuit has not been formally filed. Although the lawsuit was mailed Thursday, it was believed to be sitting in a pile of unopened mail Friday in the Allen County clerk’s office.

In a copy obtained by The Journal Gazette, the suit names the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and the county health commissioner as defendants and seeks an injunction halting the enforcement of the ordinance and that it be declared unlawful and unconstitutional. * * *

“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,” said Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana, in a written statement released Friday.

In April, the Allen County commissioners passed the new law, known as the patient safety ordinance, with input from area doctors. The law is set to take affect Tuesday. Three doctors, including Klopfer, have registered so far with the health department to comply with the ordinance, according to health department records.

Although he is challenging the ordinance, Klopfer intends to comply with it in the meantime. He does not want to risk paying the maximum $1,000 fine for violating the ordinance, he said during a phone interview Friday.

Klopfer believes that only the state of Indiana has jurisdiction to regulate doctors and medical facilities. His medical license allows him to practice anywhere in the state, he said, and the county shouldn’t be able to interfere.

His clinic is also licensed by the state and operates under state regulations, Klopfer said

Those regulations require him to provide emergency contact information to patients and keep a written procedure for providing emergency medical care and contact numbers, according to the copy of the lawsuit.

The suit also argues that the county’s ordinance is unconstitutionally vague, that it discriminates against certain classes of doctors, that it violates patients’ privacy rights and represents an undue burden on the patients to obtain an abortion.

The lawsuit states there are no provisions in the ordinance to protect the privacy or the names of the patients seeking medical care from these doctors, which could keep women from seeking services.

“That this information will remain confidential is crucial to their decision to seek these medical services,” the lawsuit states.

If Klopfer’s clinic were shut down for not complying with the ordinance, that would force women to travel long distances to seek similar services, the suit said.

“This ordinance is really just a duplicitous attempt to deeply limit or eliminate access to abortion in the Fort Wayne area,” said Suzanne Novak, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 29, 2010 11:11 AM
Posted to Indiana Law