Pete Buttigieg renewed support Tuesday for a South Bend abortion provider with a history of health and safety violations, citing his deep concern over "a new and extreme assault on Roe v. Wade."
Whole Woman's Health, a chain of abortion clinics with seven locations in five states, committed dozens of health and safety violations in three Texas facilities between 2011 and 2017, including the lack of a registered nurse on staff, inadequate sterilization of equipment, and missing fentanyl stock.
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The Indiana State Department of Health denied Whole Woman's Health of South Bend's license application due to a lack of "reputable and responsible character" and failure to disclose "information related to additional clinics," including the Texas clinics. The facility has been able to perform abortions unlicensed since it obtained a preliminary injunction from a federal judge.
A spokesman for Buttigieg's presidential campaign touted his support for Whole Woman's Health by citing the lack of abortion options in South Bend.
"The South Bend clinic would be the only one for a radius of several counties," Buttigieg's national press secretary Chris Meagher told the Chicago Tribune. "It is a restriction on a woman's right if she is low-income, or doesn’t have a vehicle, and she has to visit multiple times, but the clinic is dozens of miles away."
South Bend was previously home to an abortion clinic opened in 1978, The Women's Pavilion. The clinic was shut down in 2016 after its owner, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, was stripped of his medical license indefinitely. Klopfer was found to have violated state law nine times, including not reporting "an abortion on two girls under the age of 14" within the required timeline.
Whole Woman's Health's initial licensing application listed a former employee of Dr. Klopfer's, Liam Morley, as the clinic's administrator. South Bend physician Laura McGuire expressed opposition, saying Whole Woman's Health "has the same kind of profile as Dr. Klopfer."
Buttigieg's support of Whole Woman's Health goes beyond rhetoric.
In April 2018, Buttigieg vetoed a South Bend Common Council rezoning decision that would have allowed a pro-life pregnancy center, Women's Care Center, to open next door to Whole Woman's Health. Buttigieg told the South Bend Tribune he did not find it "responsible" to situate the two organizations "literally right next to each other" despite Women's Care Center's promise not to allow protestors to stage demonstrations on their property.
Women's Care Center went on to open across the street, sixty steps away from the originally proposed location. The organization serves about two-thirds of mothers in South Bend, offering a multitude of free medical services, parenting classes, and important goods such as strollers, cribs, car seats, and clothing.
The Buttigieg campaign did not respond to request for comment.
Whole Women's Health of South Bend will continue to provide abortions without a license, but its legal battle is far from over. The trial over the final license is scheduled to start in August 2020.