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Ind. gov. signs abortion restriction bill; Planned Parenthood vows challenge

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on Thursday signed into law a bill (HB 1337) that imposes broad restrictions on abortion care and fetal tissue disposal, the New York Times reports (Smith, New York Times, 3/24). The law is scheduled to take effect in July.

Officials with Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky (PPINK) said they plan to work with the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the law. PPINK said it will request an injunction blocking the law before it takes effect (AP/ABC News, 3/24).

Law details

The law follows an investigation last year into Planned Parenthood, which the state initiated after the release of misleading videos targeting the organization's fetal tissue donation program. In July 2015, the state Department of Health said the investigation found no proof of the Planned Parenthood clinics violating any laws and closed the complaint against the facilities.

HB 1337 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/16). In addition, the law requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital or contract with a physician who has such privileges (New York Times, 3/24).

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, 3/16).

According to the Washington Post's "Post Nation," the law makes Indiana the first state to require the cremation or interment of fetal tissue and the second -- behind North Dakota -- to prohibit abortion in cases of fetal anomalies (Somashekhar, "Post Nation," Washington Post, 3/24).

Abortion-rights supporters lambast new law

Dawn Johnsen, a professor at Indiana University and an abortion-rights advocate, said the new law is "a clear attempt to interfere and harm and chill doctors' willingness to perform abortions." She also commented on the sweeping nature of the bill, stating, "Seeing [the restrictions] all in one place, that is very striking ... It's like the kitchen sink: Everything that isn't already in the law. And the law is already really restrictive."

Separately, state Rep. Linda Lawson (D) said, "They've been on a mission, the [conservatives] in the Indiana General Assembly, to make sure that affordable health care and abortion is no longer available for women in the state of Indiana."

Lawson added that the legislation will disproportionately affect low-income women who cannot afford to travel out of state for abortion care (New York Times, 3/24).