South Bend abortion clinic closes doors, holds vigil

Published: Mar. 19, 2016 at 12:37 AM EDT
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The Women's Pavilion shut its doors on Friday after 30 years, prompting a pro-choice group to hold a vigil outside the old abortion clinic. A sense of somberness hung in the air, as supporters shared memories and read poetry.

"It is the end of this era for our community," said Liam Morley, a member of the executive team for Pro-Choice South Bend. "To me, this vigil is important to honor the patients, the women, and people in this community, who have needed and accessed abortion care."

Morley added the vigil honored abortion doctor Dr. George Klopfer. Embroiled in recent legal battles, Klopfer lost his clinic license in June 2015. An Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) inspection discovered the doctor violated informed consent laws. The Life Center (TLC), located yards away from the Women's Pavilion, filed complaints with the Indiana Attorney General and ISDH in 2014. According to TLC, Dr. Klopfer settled with the state health department in November and did not reapply for a clinic license during a 90-day "temporary closure." Between November and March 2016, the Pavilion staff gave patient referrals to regional abortion clinics.

Asked about her allegiance to Klopfer, Morley stated, "I don't think there's necessarily a difference." She continued: "We stand with our patients in our community."

Pro-choice stalwarts feared the Pavilion's closure will endanger female reproductive health. The nearest abortion clinics are located in Merrillville, Chicago, and Kalamazoo.

"When you impose a long drive for anybody, any kind of minor procedure, no doctor is going to recommend that after a minor procedure, whether it's getting your tooth pulled or anything like that," Morley argued.

For next-door neighbor, The Life Center, Friday marked another blip in the pro-life crusade.

"To The Life Center, you can say it's a good day. There won't be anybody going next door to get abortions anymore, but really, it doesn't change what we're doing," said Sullivan, who listed off TLC's offerings.

Passersby on Ironwood Friday may have noticed "dueling" vigils. However, Sullivan dispelled the notion, saying TLC was amid a 63-day vigil that began on January 22, the 43rd anniversary of the

Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court ruling.

A TLC news release Friday called the Women's Pavilion vigil a "political event," given its one-time frequency. Sullivan said he considered the pro-choice vigil "more of a demonstration-oriented activity."

Pro-Choice South Bend spokesperson Morley responded, saying, "We don't necessarily shy away from the political nature this event might be, but we don't see it as political today."

According to Sullivan, the trial date for Dr. Klopfer's medical license will be on August 25, 2016. All discovery must be concluded three months prior.