An administrative law judge has recommended a license be issued to Whole Woman’s Health Alliance to open an abortion clinic in South Bend.
The agency had planned to open a center in the 3500 block of Lincolnway West, but their application was denied by the Indiana Department of Health back in January, so the alliance filed an appeal.
It follows a two-day hearing last month over the proposed facility, which would offer medication-induced abortions to women who are up to 10 weeks pregnant.
The state health department previously concluded that the nonprofit failed to meet requirements of having “reputable and responsible character” and didn’t disclose necessary information on its application.
The judge said the state failed to show the license application was “incomplete or inaccurate.”
Unless the state objects to her order by Oct. 2, it will become final and the clinic can open. However, if the state objects, the matter would be decided by a three-member panel appointed by the department that would include a judge and two state health board members.
Jeni O’Malley, a spokeswoman for the state health department, said in an emailed statement that the agency has “received the order and is reviewing it.”
The nonprofit was among three plaintiffs that filed a lawsuit in June challenging dozens of Indiana’s abortion restrictions.
Whole Woman’s Health Alliance founder and President Amy Hagstrom Miller issued the following statement:
“We had a big win! It has been a long, uphill battle and today we finally have victory! In an order issued late this afternoon, a judge disagreed with the Indiana State Department of Health and concluded that Whole Woman’s Health Alliance was completely truthful and honest on our application and recommended that our clinic license be issued. The state has until October 2 to appeal this decision. If that date passes without an appeal, we will open our doors to provide the care the community needs.”
Mike Fichter, President and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, issued the following statement:
“Without an abortion facility for more than two years, abortions on St. Joseph County women are dramatically down according to state reports. But if Whole Woman’s Health Alliance starts doing abortions as a result of this judicial decision, we anticipate thousands of lives will be lost to abortion. Thankfully, this decision does not have to be the end of the fight. We urge the State Department of Health to appeal this decision and protect innocent, human lives in South Bend.”
Jackie Appleman, Executive Director of St. Joseph County Right to Life, issued the following statement:
“St. Joseph County Right to Life is disappointed that Judge Deitchman’s recommended ruling does not uphold the Indiana State Department of Health’s denial of WWHA’s application for license. We trust that the ISDH will exercise due diligence in appealing this decision. Our community has shown that women in South Bend don’t need abortion. Those facing unplanned or difficult pregnancies can get all the help they need to provide for their unique physical, emotional, and spiritual needs without WWHA.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.