Part of Indiana abortion law struck down

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("Court Gavel" by Best Law, Public Domain)

A federal judge has struck down part of another Indiana abortion law, but another part of the law will stand.

Planned Parenthood argued it violated equal protection to require annual inspections of abortion clinics, because hospitals don’t face the same requirement. Federal Judge Richard L. Young says it’s a reasonable response to a non-Planned Parenthood clinic in South Bend shut down over multiple violations in 2015, three years before legislators passed the inspection law. And Young says hospitals and outpatient clinics can join an accrediting agency, which conducts inspections the state is required to accept. With no similar agency for abortion clinics, Young says it’s up to the state to see that inspections are conducted.

Young says as a practical matter, hospitals are inspected about once a year anyway — actually once every 15 months on average.

But Young threw out a requirement that clinics report any complications arising from an abortion. That requirement had been temporarily blocked in 2018 because the law didn’t specify any particular complications. Legislators responded the following year by adding a list of 23 potential medical issues, up to and including death.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that list was still too vague, because of two catchall provisions at the end of the list covering psychological complications or any other issues meeting Food and Drug Administration criteria. Young didn’t address that argument, because he says the law flunks a legal test even before that one: it offers zero guidance for defining which complications “arise from” an abortion. Young says the law would have left doctors to guess whether a premature birth in a future pregnancy needs to be reported. Since the law made it a misdemeanor not to file a report, Young says there’s an even stricter standard for due process requirements.

A-C-L-U Indiana legal director Ken Falk argues the law would have artificially inflated the risks of abortion. He notes the Indiana State Department of Health’s own informed-consent brochure — itself a state requirement — advises patients that fewer than one in 200 first-trimester abortions leads to complications, while women are 24 times more likely to die from pregnancy than from an abortion.

Planned Parenthood offers surgical abortion in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Merrillville, and medication abortion in Lafayette.

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