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ACLU files challenge to Ind. antiabortion-rights law; abortion-rights activists plan demonstration

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a recently signed Indiana antiabortion-rights law (HB 1337), Reuters reports (Madden, Reuters, 4/7).

The law is scheduled to take effect on July 1 (Kelly, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 4/7).

Law details

The new law bans abortion sought because of the sex of the fetus or a disability diagnosis. Physicians who provide abortion care when they know the procedure is sought for such reasons could face civil liability or disciplinary action. In addition, the law requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital or contract with a physician who has such privileges.

The law also mandates that fetal tissue resulting from abortion or miscarriage be cremated or interred. Further, the law makes it a misdemeanor to intentionally transport fetal tissue into the state or across state lines unless the tissue is being moved for burial or cremation (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/25).

Lawsuit details

ACLU of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), as well as a physician and a nurse practitioner who work with Planned Parenthood (Wang/Schneider, Indianapolis Star, 4/7). Defendants include the state health commissioner, members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana and prosecutors in Lake, Marion, Monroe and Tippecanoe counties (Fischer, RTV6, 4/7).

The lawsuit calls on the court to declare the law unconstitutional and requests an injunction to halt its enforcement. According to the suit, the law encroaches upon a woman's right to access abortion care in the first trimester (Indianapolis Star, 4/7). The suit states that the law "imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to choose an abortion because it bars that choice under certain circumstances, even if the pregnancy is in its early stages and the fetus is not viable" (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 4/7).

The lawsuit also argues that the law violates health care providers' free speech rights by requiring them to tell patients about an unconstitutional law.

In addition, the suit challenges the law's costly fetal tissue burial and cremation requirements (Indianapolis Star, 4/7). Under the law, Planned Parenthood would have to secure a burial transmit permit for the tissue and make arrangements for a mortuary to accept and handle the tissue. According to the lawsuit, such restrictions are not in place for other kinds of medical waste.


ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said, "The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed that a woman, not the state, is to determine whether or not to obtain an abortion." He added, "The State of Indiana's attempt to invade a woman's privacy and to control her decision in this regard is unprecedented and unconstitutional" (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 4/7).

Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU of Indiana, noted, "Unnecessary restrictions, like those recently signed into law, demean women and threaten the quality of their health care. The ACLU of Indiana will continue to work to ensure that every woman can make the best decision for herself and her family about whether and when to continue a pregnancy without undue political interference."

During a press conference Thursday, PPINK President and CEO Betty Cockram said Pence's decision to sign the law shows an "alarming lack of respect for women." She added, "It clearly indicates that he doesn't believe that Hoosier women should be trusted to make their own personal and private healthcare decisions" (RTV6, 4/7).

Abortion-rights advocates plan demonstration

In related news, abortion-rights advocates involved with "Periods for Pence," a social media campaign against the new law, have planned a rally at the Indiana Statehouse on Saturday. According to the Indianapolis Star, thousands are expected to attend (Indianapolis Star, 4/7).

According to the New York Times, the social media campaign's anonymous creator in the original Facebook page called on abortion-rights supporters to share details about their menstrual cycle to the governor's office. The creator, an Indiana woman, explained that "fertilized eggs can be expelled during a woman's period without a woman even knowing" she is pregnant, which the campaign creator suggested could put a woman at risk under the law's fetal disposal requirements. "I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty if they do not 'properly dispose' of this or report it," the woman wrote, adding, "Just to cover our bases, perhaps we should make sure to contact Governor Pence's office to report our periods" (Smith, New York Times, 4/8).

Annette Gross, one of the co-organizers for the rally on Saturday, expressed frustration with both Pence and the 97 state lawmakers who helped pass the new law. She noted that while the rally might not "cause the governor to take back the bill," it will prevent Pence from "hid[ing] in his ivory tower and pretend[ing] everything is OK because it's not." The rally "at least ... gives people a voice," she added.

Separately, Marie Siroky, a United Church of Christ hospital chaplain in Indiana and another rally co-organizer, said the new law will complicate the doctor-patient relationship. "I don't think people realize the trauma this can cause," she said, adding, "I guarantee you that people will not seek care. They are going to be so scared to go to the [emergency room] and you can't be honest with your doctor" (Chokey, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/6).