Patient records found at shuttered Indiana abortion clinics

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Officers from the Fort Wayne Police Department block the entrance to the site of a former abortion clinic operated by Dr. Ulrich Klopfer on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Fort Wayne, Ind. After the doctor’s death on Sept. 3, more than 2,000 medically preserved fetal remains were found in the garage of his home in rural Crete, Ill. (Eric Ginnard/The Herald-News via AP)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Investigators found thousands of abandoned medical records at three shuttered Indiana abortion clinics that were operated by a late doctor who took home more than 2,200 sets of fetal remains, Indiana’s attorney general said Friday.

No fetal remains were found during Thursday’s searches of Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s former clinics and other properties in Gary, South Bend and Fort Wayne, Attorney General Curtis Hill said at a news conference. But he said thousands of patient medical records were discovered, though he didn’t give an exact number.

Women getting abortions have “a high degree of expectation of privacy and confidentiality,” but the medical records found at Klopfer’s clinics had simply been “abandoned” there, Hill said. The Fort Wayne clinic closed in 2014, and the Gary and South Bend clinics closed the following year.

Hill said his office hopes to determine why 2,246 sets of fetal remains from abortions performed in 2000, 2001 and 2002 in Indiana ended up in the garage of Klopfer’s home in Will County, Illinois. Klopfer died on Sept. 3 and his widow and her sister found the remains last week and alerted the authorities.

Will County officials said Thursday that the remains would be sent back to Indiana, and Hill said his office is coordinating their return.

He said preliminary findings indicate that all of the remains came from Klopfer’s three former Indiana clinics.

Hill, a conservative Republican who opposes abortion rights, said that regardless of a person’s stance on the issue, it’s “deplorable” that the women who underwent the procedures now “have to relive that moment” because of uncertainty about the final disposition of the aborted fetuses.

He said Klopfer had a record of maintaining “deplorable conditions” and violating regulatory controls at his clinics.

“He certainly was problematic in life and as it turns out he continues to present problems in his death,” he said.

Indiana’s Medical Licensing Board suspended Klopfer’s medical license in 2016 after finding numerous violations, including a failure to ensure that qualified staff were present when patients received or recovered from medications given before and during abortions.

Although Klopfer is dead, Hill said part of his office’s investigation will seek to determine whether any other licensed professionals were aware that the remains were moved from Indiana to his Illinois property, and if they had a hand in moving them.

“That’s what we’re trying to determine — how this happened, who was involved and what if anything we can do about it. And going forward, what can we do to prevent these types of things from happening in the future,” he said.

His office has set up an email address and phone number for inquiries from people who might have connections to the fetal remains.

The investigation is complicated by the fact that the abortions occurred nearly 20 years ago and such uncertainties as when the fetal remains may have been moved and what Indiana’s laws were at that point in time.

“This is a daunting task,” Hill said.

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Follow Rick Callahan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/callahanwrick

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