News Abortion

Charges Filed Against Indiana Doctor Following Avalanche of Anti-Choice Complaints

Emily Crockett

A growing number of states are requiring providers to report abortions on minors as possible cases of rape or incest, even when no evidence of abuse exists—and anti-choice groups are increasingly exploiting these rules to try to discredit doctors or close clinics.

With reporting by Sofia Resnick

An Indiana abortion doctor has been charged with a misdemeanor for “failing to timely file a public report” after anti-choice activists filed numerous complaints against him.

The Lake County prosecutor’s office filed charges this month against Dr. Ulrich Klopfer for allegedly not reporting until January 2013 an abortion he performed on a 13-year-old girl in September 2012. Indiana statutory rape reporting laws require abortions performed on girls younger than 14 to be reported within three days to the state’s health and child welfare departments.

According to the prosecution’s probable cause affidavit, Lynne Scherschel of Lake County Right to Life brought the reporting issue to the attention of a detective in December.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The South Bend Tribune reported that Klopfer was one of several Indiana doctors to delay reporting abortions on minors, and that he had done so on at least three occasions. Klopfer told the Tribune that he had made an “honest mistake” in taking too long to report two of those abortions, but disputed state records that said he had taken six months to report a third from February 2013. Klopfer said he faxed the necessary report to the department of health on the day of that procedure.

As Rewire reported in November, a growing number of states are requiring providers to report abortions on minors as possible cases of rape or incest, even when no evidence of abuse exists—and anti-choice groups are increasingly exploiting these rules to try to discredit doctors or close clinics.

Scherschel’s complaint that led to the charges against Klopfer was far from the first formal complaint filed by anti-choice activists against the doctor. Cathy Humbarger, executive director of the Allen County Right to Life, filed a complaint in September 2013 over Klopfer’s alleged reporting failures. Then, in October and December, at least 20 women, some of whom were members of Indiana Right to Life, filed a total of over 1,200 complaints against Klopfer for an alleged “1,494 errors and omissions made by Klopfer between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013 on terminated pregnancy reports that doctors are required by Indiana law to file for every abortion they perform.”

In an interview with Rewire this week, Klopfer claimed he has proof that Right to Life altered documents to come up with those alleged 1,494 separate errors.

While Klopfer again admitted to making “honest mistakes” in waiting too long to file reports, he said that the Right to Life groups are “basically doing a witch hunt” against him.

“They’re not the documents I sent into the state. They take a document and they fill it in their way and then send it into the state saying that I falsely reported this stuff,” Klopfer said. “Then it doesn’t match the report I have in my chart or the patient’s chart. Because we keep a copy of everything we send to the state.”

Rewire was unable to verify Klopfer’s claims because patient privacy laws prohibit him from sharing the documents. Klopfer said he plans to prove the matter to the attorney general’s office.

A patient educator at Klopfer’s South Bend, Indiana clinic who asked not to be identified told Rewire that many of the “errors” cited by Right to Life were in fact statistical information unrelated to the patient’s health or safety. For instance, if a patient did not wish to disclose her ethnicity, and that line was left blank on the form, Right to Life would consider it an error. Moreover, she said, “Some of the numbers don’t match up. I’m not going to give specifics, but they’re saying there’s so many documents, and we don’t necessarily have that many patients, so I’m not really sure where all those documents are coming from.”

Indiana Right to Life did not respond to requests for comment before publication time. A spokesman for Indiana’s department of health, which maintains terminated pregnancy reports, said the department redacts all documents to comply with privacy laws, prior to releasing them to the public. 

In the wake of sustained negative attention from anti-choice activists, Klopfer has had to take a “hiatus” from performing abortions at his Fort Wayne clinic, leaving the city without an abortion provider for the time being. Dr. Geoffrey Cly, who had partnered with Klopfer so Klopfer could comply with county admitting privileges laws, terminated that arrangement effective January 1. According to the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Cly “agreed to serve as Klopfer’s backup in 2010 in order to protect the health of women receiving abortions from Klopfer, since he practices in Fort Wayne only one day each week.”

(Under county law, physicians must partner with a local doctor if they are working in a county in which they do not reside, and must have admitting privileges at an area hospital or an agreement with a local doctor who has said privileges with an area facility.)

Cly, who is anti-choice, said he ended the arrangement because of the reporting failure allegations against Klopfer, as well as comments he made to Rewire in November about advising minors to have abortions in nearby states with less stringent reporting requirements.

Klopfer’s Fort Wayne clinic remains open, and he still sees patients there and performs pre-abortion counseling. But patients will have to drive almost another 100 miles to his South Bend clinic to receive an abortion. “That will add to their cost and hardship,” Klopfer told the News-Sentinel.

The Indiana Medical Licensing Board referred Klopfer’s case to the attorney general for further investigation after Klopfer appeared before the board on Wednesday to address his public comments on the reporting issues. Klopfer’s medical license was renewed in October but was stipulated as being “under review.”

The Lake County prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the misdemeanor charges.

News Human Rights

Remaining Charges Dropped Against Officers in Freddie Gray Case

Michelle D. Anderson

Gray, who was Black, died of a neck injury a week after being taken into police custody in April 2015. The 25-year-old’s death led to widespread protest and civil disobedience against racial injustice and a number of reforms in Baltimore and across Maryland.

Three Baltimore Police Department officers charged in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray will not go to trial as originally planned.

Chief Deputy State Attorney Michael Schatzow of the Baltimore City State Attorney’s Office said during a court hearing Wednesday that his office would not prosecute Officer Garrett Miller and Sgt. Alicia White or attempt to retry Officer William Porter, whose case ended in a mistrial in December.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby had charged Miller, White, and Porter, along with Officer Edward Nero, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., and Lt. Brian Rice, in Gray’s May 2015 death in police custody.

The officers faced an array of charges, ranging from second-degree depraved-heart murder and reckless endangerment to second-degree assault and involuntary manslaughter.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

All of the officers pleaded not guilty.

Judge Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams acquitted Nero, Goodson, and Rice during bench trials that ended in May, June, and July, respectively. Miller’s trial was set to begin Wednesday; White, October 13, and Porter, September 6.

Gray, who was Black, died of a neck injury a week after being taken into police custody in April 2015. The 25-year-old’s death led to widespread protest and civil disobedience against racial injustice and a number of reforms in Baltimore and across Maryland.

Mosby, in filing charges against the officers, attempted to hold law enforcement accountable for failing to secure Gray in a seat belt after transporting him in a police van following his arrest, among other alleged negligent acts. Prosecutors charged that Gray was illegally detained before police officers found a knife in his pocket.

Mosby stood by her decision to bring charges against the six officers during a brief press conference held near the Gilmor Homes public housing project, where Gray was taken into police custody.

“We stand by the medical examiners determination that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide,” Mosby said.

She touted her team’s success during the trials, including an appellate court victory that led some officers to testify against one another and asserted that a summary judgment was among many reasons she had “legitimate reasons” to pursue criminal charges.

Mosby praised the reforms that had come over the past year, including a new “use of force” policy Baltimore police instituted this year. The new policy emphasizes de-escalation and accountability. It marks the first rewrite of the policy since 2003.

“For those that believe I am anti-police, that’s simply not the case. I am anti-police brutality,” Mosby said.

The conference was the first time Mosby had spoken in months, since a gag order imposed by Williams had kept prosecution and defense alike from commenting on the police trials.

The decision to drop charges stemmed from “an apparent acknowledgement” that convictions were unlikely for the remaining officers, the Baltimore Sun reported.

This was because the prosecution would face major challenges during Miller’s trial since they wouldn’t be able to use anything he said on the witness stand during Nero’s trial in an attempt to convict him. Miller had spoken during Nero’s trial in an immunized testimony and with protections against self incrimination, the Sun reported.

Williams said in previous trials that prosecutors failed to show sufficient evidence to support their stance that the officers acted recklessly and caused Gray’s death. He said prosecutors wanted him to rely on “presumptions or assumptions” and rejected the notion that police intentionally gave Gray a “rough ride” in the police vehicle, according to numerous news reports.

The decision to drop charges drew criticism from many activists and citizens alike, but drew praise from the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 union, which had repeatedly urged the prosecution to drop charges.

Baltimore Bloc, a local grassroots group, said in a statement this spring that Mosby should be removed from office for failing to secure convictions against officers and continued to criticize her on Twitter after the announcement that charges would be dropped.

News Law and Policy

Texas District Attorney Drops Felony Charges Against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The grand jury returned indictments against Daleiden and Merritt on felony charges of tampering with an official government document for purportedly using a fraudulent driver's license to gain access to a Planned Parenthood center in Houston.

UPDATE, July 26, 2:47 p.m.: This piece has been updated to include a statement from Planned Parenthood.

On Tuesday, the Harris County District Attorney’s office in Texas dismissed the remaining criminal charges against anti-choice activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt related to their production of widely discredited, heavily edited videos alleging Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from fetal tissue donations.

The criminal charges against the pair originally stemmed from Republican Texas lawmakers’ responses to the videos’ release. Attorney General Ken Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick all called for the Harris County District attorney’s Office to begin a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast last August, after the release of one video that featured clinic staff in Houston talking about the methods and costs of preserving fetal tissue for life-saving scientific research.

A Texas grand jury found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood staff and declined to bring any criminal charges against the health-care provider. More than a dozen state and federal investigations have similarly turned up no evidence of lawbreaking by the reproductive health-care provider.

Instead, in January, the grand jury returned indictments against Daleiden and Merritt on felony charges of tampering with an official government document for purportedly using a fraudulent driver’s license to gain access to a Planned Parenthood center in Houston. Daleiden was also indicted on a misdemeanor charge related to trying to entice a third party to unlawfully purchase human organs.

A Texas judge in June dismissed the misdemeanor charge against Daleiden on procedural grounds.

“This meritless and retaliatory prosecution should never have been brought,” said Daleiden’s attorney, Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, in a statement following the announcement that the district attorneys office was dismissing the indictment. “Planned Parenthood did wrong here, not David Daleiden.”

“Planned Parenthood provides high-quality, compassionate health care and has been cleared of any wrongdoing time and again. [Daleiden] and other anti-abortion extremists, on the other hand, spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, and lying. When they couldn’t find any improper or illegal activity, they made it up. They spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their anti-abortion agenda. The decision to drop the prosecution on a technicality does not negate the fact that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the extremists behind this fraud,” Melaney A. Linton, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said in a statement emailed to Rewire after publication.

The district attorney’s dismissal of the felony charges against Daleiden and Merritt happened just before a scheduled court hearing requested by their attorneys to argue the felony indictment should be dismissed.

Daleiden still faces three civil lawsuits elsewhere in the country related to the creation and release of the Planned Parenthood videos.