August 9, 2022

South Bend’s lone abortion clinic to close when new state law takes effect

Article origination WVPE 88.1 Elkhart/South Bend
The Whole Woman's Health clinic in South Bend will close when Indiana's near-total abortion ban takes effect next month. - Courtesy Whole Woman's Health Alliance

The Whole Woman's Health clinic in South Bend will close when Indiana's near-total abortion ban takes effect next month.

Courtesy Whole Woman's Health Alliance

The Whole Woman’s Health Clinic in South Bend — the only one in Michiana that provides abortions — will close next month when Indiana’s new abortion ban takes effect.

But until then, Midwest Advocacy Director Sharon Lau said abortion is still legal in the state.

“We are going to be seeing patients from now until the last day that we’re allowed to,” she said.

Lau said the South Bend clinic has seen an uptick in calls from states like Kentucky, Ohio and Texas since the overturn of Roe v. Wade earlier this summer.

Over the past couple of weeks, calls from the neighboring state of Illinois have increased as well, though abortion is legal there.

“Because the wait times have gone up, due to all the surrounding states having some sort of restrictions, now people are trying to come to Indiana for a shorter wait time,” Lau said. “Again, we can help them for the next month, but after that, it’s gonna start going back the other direction.”

Lau said Whole Woman’s Health currently provides medication abortion by telemedicine in Illinois, and is considering opening a brick-and-mortar clinic in the state.

After Indiana’s law takes effect Sept. 15, she said the alliance will help Hoosier patients access abortion in other states through its Wayfinder Program.

“We will work with patients to help them with flights or bus tickets or gas, hotel costs and things like that, to get to one of our other clinics,” she said.

Whole Woman’s Health currently operates a clinic in Minnesota and offers medication abortion by telemedicine in the state. It also operates clinics in Maryland and Virginia.

The closure of the South Bend clinic doesn’t just mean the loss of services for patients — it also means a loss of work for the employees that staff the clinic, most of whom are from the area, Lau said.

“They’re so proud of the work that they do and they’re proud to serve the patients in their community,” she said. “It’s very upsetting for them — but especially on behalf of the pregnant Hoosiers who are not going to be able to get the care that they need in their own communities.”

Indiana currently has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the country, particularly for Black women.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the state’s abortion ban into law last Friday, Aug. 5.

Exceptions are only allowed if the pregnant person’s serious health or life is at risk; if there’s a lethal fetal anomaly up to 20 weeks post-fertilization; and in cases of rape or incest, but only up to 10 weeks.

Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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