Whole Woman's Health closes South Bend abortion clinic


HomeHome / Blog / Whole Woman's Health closes South Bend abortion clinic

Aug 10, 2023

Whole Woman's Health closes South Bend abortion clinic

Whole Woman’s Health Alliance announced it will close its South Bend clinic.

Whole Woman's Health Alliance announced it will close its South Bend clinic. (Photo courtesy Whole Woman's Health Alliance)

Whole Woman's Health Alliance has closed its South Bend clinic for good amid "politically driven and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions," the nonprofit announced late Monday night.

The clinic has not seen patients for several months and surrendered its license back to the Indiana Department of Health this week. The license was set to expire June 30 but could have been renewed.

"We are devastated to mark the end of our physical presence in South Bend," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman's Health Alliance, in a written statement. "This journey started over seven years ago when we were asked to come fill the need for abortion care in the community. Over the years we have worked with community allies, local officials, and legal counsel to ensure that we could provide the care that our patients deserved."

"Even while navigating relentless attacks on our staff, medical providers, and clinic building — we were still able to serve over 1,000 patients for medication abortion care in our small but mighty South Bend clinic," Hagstrom continued. "While we no longer provide abortions in our South Bend clinic location, our resolve to help Hoosiers is as strong as ever."

The clinic in 2021 — the most recent data — performed 355 medication abortions, or 4% of the state's total. Surgical abortions weren't conducted in the facility.

The clinic last offered patient appointments in December, a spokesperson told the Indiana Capital Chronicle. Since then, the nonprofit has been answering clinic phone calls from patients seeking abortion care and referring patients to other states where abortion remains legal. Staff will continue doing so as the clinic completes its "wind-down process."

The closure comes nearly a year after the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly advanced a near-total abortion ban during a heated, two-week special session that concluded last August. That made Indiana the first state in the nation to approve such legislation since the high court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The ban outlaws all abortions except in the case of a fatal fetal anomaly and cases of serious health risk to the mother. One part of the law says these exceptions are up to 20 weeks but another part says they can be used anytime. Rape survivors can get an abortion up to 10 weeks post-fertilization. It also strips abortion clinics of their state medical licenses, and provides that only hospitals and hospital-owned ambulatory surgical centers can provide abortions.

The ban remains on hold, however, while Indiana Supreme Court justices weigh a legal challenge against the new law. Under an earlier injunction, the state's previous abortion law stands — allowing abortions up to 20 weeks.

Whole Woman's Health is among the health care providers signed onto the ongoing court challenge — being led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana — but the nonprofit filed Monday to dismiss its claims, according to court documents. Other parties in the lawsuit are not affected, however.

Even with the injunction, Whole Woman's Health said "confusion about the law still exists." Hoosiers seeking abortions also continue to face "a variety of burdensome restrictions," the group said, like Indiana's "physician-only law" that only allows a physician to perform a first-trimester abortion in the state. The abortion providers also pointed to "medically unnecessary physical plant requirement for abortion clinics."

Jared Lathrop, a Whole Woman's Health spokesperson said those "onerous restrictions" on clinic buildings include requirements for hallway widths and procedure room sizes. While not medically necessary, such rules "are designed to make providing abortion care difficult and costly for the provider, with no health benefit to women," Lathrop said.

The lone abortion provider in South Bend, Whole Woman's Health was one of seven licensed clinics in Indiana. It first opened in June 2019.

The next closest provider is Family Planning Associates Chicago, 100 miles from South Bend, according to Pro Choice South Bend.


by Casey Smith, Indiana Capital Chronicle June 6, 2023

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master's degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.