Federal judge rules against several Indiana abortion laws

Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that several of Indiana’s laws restricting abortion are unconstitutional, including the state’s ban on telemedicine consultations between doctors and women seeking abortions.

The judge’s ruling also upheld other state abortion limits that were challenged in a broad lawsuit filed by Virginia-based Whole Woman’s Health Alliance in 2018 as it fought the denial of a license to open an abortion clinic in South Bend.

At the same time, U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker found that the following Indiana provisions challenged by plaintiffs do not violate the U.S. Constitution can remain active in the state:

  • Requirement that only physicians can provide first-trimester aspiration abortion care,
  • Requirement that ultrasounds are performed before an abortion,
  • Requirement that abortion providers collect detailed information about patients and enter these details into a database operated by the Indiana Department of Health,
  • Requirement that abortion providers maintain admitting privileges with a hospital or a written agreement with a provider who has such privileges,
  • Requirement that the administration of abortion-inducing drugs meets FDA guidelines,
  • Requirement that minors receive either parental consent or a judicial waiver in order to receive an abortion,
  • Requirements that physicians and advanced practice clinicians (like nurse practitioners) conduct pre-abortion counseling sessions, 
  • Requirements that patients delay their abortions for at least eighteen hours after receiving state-mandated disclosures,
  • Requirement that providers disclose information relating to the disposal of fetal tissue,
  • Requirement that the Indiana Department of Health must inspect abortion clinics in the state once a year and conduct complaint inspections,
  • Certain facility requirements for aspiration abortion clinics, 
  • Requirement of the dissemination of a Perinatal Hospice Brochure containing information relating to certain physical health risks.

The state attorney general’s office has been defending those laws in court. A.G. Todd Rokita issued the following statement in response to the ruling:

Today’s mixed decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Rokita only strengthens our resolve to keep fighting for the lives of unborn children and the health of mothers.

We are grateful the district court upheld Indiana’s eminently reasonable laws requiring ultrasounds, limiting surgical abortions to licensed physicians, ensuring pre-abortion counseling sessions are provided by physicians or advanced-practice clinicians, and imposing criminal penalties for violations of abortion laws.

Unfortunately, elsewhere in its decision the district court invalidated a handful of Indiana laws even though doing so contradicts binding precedent, including a Seventh Circuit decision that upheld the very same in-person-counseling Indiana law that the district court invalidated today.

We will continue to fight to defend Indiana’s commonsense abortion laws and to build a culture of life in Indiana.

A.G. ROKITA

The Indianapolis Star and Associated Press contributed to this story.

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