If there was ever a historical moment calling for politicians to take a strong stand, this last week was it: Bill 292 would have required Indiana abortionists to provide proof of having admitting privileges or an agreement with a doctor who did. The Bill failed to pass the Republican controlled House.
The recent case of Indiana abortionist Dr. Ulrich Klopfer suggests why such laws requiring transparency are necessary. Dr. Klopfer was criminally charged for failure to report statutory rape in Fort Wayne. Klopfer also lacks the required transfer agreement with a Gary hospital and there is no record of admitting or transfer privileges in South Bend, Indiana.
Of gravest concern, Dr. Klopfer has admitted to late reporting of underage abortions, universally considered dangerous for victims of statutory rape. He also routinely advises teens to skirt Indiana law by going out of state. In light of recent demographic data indicating 75% of all abortions are performed on women who began sexual activity under the age of 16, the strong link between abortion and young girls is becoming more evident.The lack of oversight of the state’s licensing agreement that allowed this abortionist to bypass legal restrictions until recently would probably have been corrected sooner by Bill 292, a statute in line with current professional medical standards for outpatient surgeries.The American College of Surgeons submitted guidelines requiring doctor’s obtain hospital privileges for all forms of outpatient surgery including “reproductive” surgery, and in 2002 these recommendations were passed by the American Medical Association.
An underage girl’s appearance at an abortion facility is grounds to report. Keep in mind that Dr. Klopfer is not required to determine the extent of rape but only to pass along information to authorities who can then respond appropriately. Teachers, child care workers, counselors, and health professionals operate with this obligation. Nonetheless, RH Reality Check’s Sofia Resnik claims reporting laws are harmful and place an unfair “burden” on abortionists.
In contrast to physicians, abortionists operate for the most part without much oversight. The traditional model of a family doctor’s long-term relationship to his patients is the prototype forming the central tenant of a position paper Resnik cites, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The paper concludes “Federal and state laws should allow physicians and other health care professionals to exercise appropriate clinical judgment in reporting cases of sexual activity (e.g. life threatening emergencies, imminent harm, and/ or suspected abuse).” While such a recommendation sounds reasonable within the close doctor-patient context suggested in the journal, in actual practice, abortionists do not have an ongoing relationship with their patients.
Indeed, an abortionist is not a physician with a general practice; that’s why the county regulatory community and legislators enact laws to detect problems so they can come to the attention of authorities. A case in point, Dr. Klopfer has no ties to the local medical community and lacks any affiliation with area hospitals and thus is not subject to the regular scrutiny under which physicians operate. As an out- of- state, itinerant abortionist, Dr. Klopfer has little connection to the communities where he practices.
In this respect, Dr. Klopfer speaks as one who has long been a law unto himself, pointing out he is not answerable to local hospitals. In a recent interview, Dr. Klopfer explained why he has refused to name his back up doctor while also highlighting the unregulated nature of his abortion business: “Nowadays the majority of medical school graduates become employed in some big corporation where the hospital or otherwise controls and dictates everything you can and cannot do,” Klopfer said. “For me to divulge information that’s not necessary, I will not.”
To assume abortion providers operate according to the same standards as physicians is thus highly problematic. Practicing medicine is regulated by all kinds of laws that protect the lives of patients, yet people do not realize abortionists are not regulated like other doctors. Americans were astounded, for instance, to learn that Kermit Gosnell operated without oversight or inspection for 17 years despite reported concerns. As a result of his criminal case, the state of Pennsylvania put in place additional regulations. Even so, abortionists generally do not contend with the daily demands of hospital administrators and constant oversight of their operations by governmental agencies.
After 41 years of legal abortion, it is still claimed that abortion advances women’s rights and protects women and girls in cases of rape and incest. Abortion is popularly regarded as the solution to the social problem of rape, despite the fact that abortion is not a recognized treatment for sexual abuse. In fact, the group Women Pregnant by Sexual Assault point out that claiming abortion as the best option following sexual abuse is based on a myth and the stories of young girls typically show a scenario of coercion.
Young girls and teens are the most vulnerable to rape and are the group most often pressured or even forced to abort. Dr. Klopfer’s office in South Bend is located next door to The Life Center, a Catholic organization offering a range of services to pregnant women and girls with a motto of “real choices, real information, and real love.” One such outreach involves sidewalk ministers (called TLC Advocates). “It’s easy to talk about women’s rights,” says TLC Advocate Ellen Masters, “but often these are not women. I’ve seen young girls arrive by themselves, with friends, or with older guys. It makes you wonder how many of these are being reported.”
Non-reporting is seen as discretionary by proponents of abortion. Resnik, for instance, cites a position paper that argues abortion providers should be allowed to use their professional judgment when looking for evidence of coercive sexual relationships. Yet, even when they appear un-complaining, young girls are the most at risk group for sexual violence. The National Center for Victims of Crime notes that children are one of the largest groups of victims of sex abuse, that agencies designed to help often fail to coordinate services, and that re-victimization is common. Given the fact that women seeking abortion are seven times more likely to be abused than those who do not, it is clearly mistaken to assume girls entering an abortion facility are exercising a free choice.
For 41 years, the abortion industry has generally ignored and even flouted regulations, and it should be clear by now that not reporting minors seeking abortions perpetuates the vicious cycle of abuse in cases of rape and incest. Abortionists are not set up to detect sexual abuse, a fact Resnik acknowledges as reason not to require reporting. Nonetheless, in this case, Indiana law does not demand abortionists diagnose the nature of previous sexual activity but merely report minors to the Department of Child Services, who can then determine the extent of criminal activity. Resnik views any regulation as an untenable barrier to abortions.
The position paper Resnik cites advocates confidentiality as the chief priority in treating minors. In the case of rape, however, confidentiality offers the greatest benefit to the criminal not the victim. An older man who needs to cover up an illicit affair with a young girl can typically expect confidentiality from an abortionist. However, in-depth analysis of recent studies of abortion and violence led to the conclusion that stronger intervention is called for. In fact, one of the researchers, Susan Bewley, a consultant obstetrician at King’s College in London, noted that abortion-minded women “welcomed the opportunity to disclose their experiences … and to be offered help.”
Agencies that deal with sexual abuse of children and sex trafficking continue to warn that juveniles are especially vulnerable as they are often compelled to participate, experience isolation, and are unlikely to report molestation. Last year, a pregnant teen in Houston who wanted to keep her child against the persistent demands and pressures from her parents, was fortunate to locate legal advocates and won her case. For these reasons, it is incumbent that a minor seeking an abortion not go unreported.
There is little reason to think girls voluntarily seek abortion. In the book Victims and Victors, rape survivors explain that it is wrong to assume survivors want an abortion. In fact, the majority of those who aborted a pregnancy conceived in sexual assault later described abortion as the wrong solution as it increased rather than reduced the trauma they experienced. Ensuring access to abortion at all costs has often meant not questioning the circumstances of how the girl became pregnant, in response to unplanned pregnancy; the shotgun wedding of the past becoming the “shotgun abortion” of the present.
The failure to support reporting abortions on young girls amounts to a cover up of the sexual abuse, protecting the very rape culture feminists decry. Accounting for about 30% of all abortions, teens suffer more abortion-related complications than other age groups, information they are not being provided. Expecting a 13-year-old girl to act with the self determination of an adult woman or to fend off a coercive adult is unrealistic, and claiming lack of access to reproductive services as a reason to oppose reporting laws does not adhere to our current understanding of sexual exploitation. Further, it is clear that abortionists such as Dr. Klopfer have little incentive to report underage abortion, let alone any sense of obligation to intervene and prevent a forced abortion.
Instead of regulation, there tends to be a call for further education, yet this is clearly insufficient to safeguard girls from sexual violence. There needs to be more reporting, not less, additional anti-coercion measures, and stronger enforcement. Failing to report abortions performed on minors may well protect rapists, rape culture, or the “right” to an abortion but does nothing to safeguard girls from sexual abuse.
Forty one years of legalized abortion shows that it is no “solution” to rape. In reality, the abortion industry has obstructed laws in place to protect girls from rape. Surely Americans who understand this reality cannot count as a victory for women’s rights the protection of men who rape girls. The recent attention to Dr. Klopfer’s failure to report underage abortions should rectify the misconception of abortion as the “cure” for rape and incest, increasing our awareness that abortion and rape culture are allies.