Indiana's New Abortion Ban Faces Legal Challenge
By Zach Osowski
Claiming Indiana's newly passed abortion law is a violation of privacy and a violation of the First Amendment, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Northern Kentucky as well as the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit over House Bill 1337 Thursday morning.
Kevin Falk, legal director for the ACLU, said the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently said women have the right to get an abortion if they so choose. The new law, signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence two weeks ago, takes away that right, Falk said.
"This statute does something the (U.S.) Supreme Court has said repeatedly cannot be done," Falk said. "It is an attempt by the state of Indiana to interfere with and actually prohibit a woman's right to determine whether or not to have an abortion."
HB 1337, authored by Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne, prohibits women from having an abortion based on the sex or race of the fetus -- or a diagnosed disability, such as Down syndrome. After Pence signed the bill, Indiana became just the second state, after North Dakota, to impose thse kinds of restrictions.
In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood says its doctors have performed abortions that would be considered illegal under the law, specifically for fetuses diagnosed with genetic anomalies, and will continue to do so based on the belief that an abortion is a constitutional right.
The bill also stipulates Planned Parenthood employees inform patients they are not allowed to perform abortions based on the restrictions laid out in the bill -- something the employees think is a violation of free speech. Under current practice, Planned Parenthood does not ask why a mother is having an abortion.
The lawsuit says Planned Parenthood and its doctors and nurses object to the new mandates "as they believe that they are being forced to inform patients of something that is clearly unconstitutional."
Planned Parenthood of Indiana's CEO Betty Cockrum said the law is "abysmal, intrusive and dangerous" and said it raises more questions than answers.
"Gov. Pence's signature demonstrates an alarming lack of respect for women," Cockrum said. "It clearly indicates he doesn't think Hoosier women can be trusted to make their own personal health care decisions."
The backlash from Indiana women once the bill was signed has been widespread, manifesting most visibly in the "Periods for Pence" movement. In response to the new law, the Facebook group has been encouraging women to call Pence's office to talk about their menstruation. The group has gained nationwide notoriety and hundreds of women have called the office in the two weeks since the signing.
Proponents of the bill see it as a way to further protect the unborn and provide proper disposal of fetal remains. The Indiana Right to Life organization issued a statement after the lawsuit was filed, saying it's no surprise Planned Parenthood is asking the courts for help.
"This is the same song and dance we have seen from the abortion provider anytime they feel their lucrative abortion business is threatened," Right to Life CEO Mark Fichter said. "They look to the courts and activist judges to rule in their favor."
Pence's office said the governor will work closely with the attorney general to defend the law and "has every confidence this law is constitutional."
Twice in the last five years, Indiana courts have struck down anti-abortion legislation, including legislation in 2011 seeking to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
The bill goes into effect on July 1. Falk said he hopes to get a preliminary injunction to stop the bill from becoming law while the lawsuit goes through the legal process.
(c)2016 the Evansville Courier & Press (Evansville, Ind.)