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Ind. will not appeal preliminary injunction on antiabortion-rights law

The Indiana attorney general's office on Tuesday said the state will not appeal a federal court order that bars enforcement of an omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HEA 1337) while a lawsuit challenging the measure continues, the AP/Seattle Times reports (Callahan, AP/Seattle Times, 8/2).

Law details

Under the law, physicians who provide abortion care when they know the procedure is sought because of the race or sex of the fetus or a disability diagnosis could face civil liability or disciplinary action. In addition, the law requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital or a 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.

Lawsuit details

In April, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), as well as a physician and a nurse practitioner who work with Planned Parenthood.

PPINK called on the court to declare the law unconstitutional and requested 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. The suit stated 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."

PPINK also argued that the law violates health care providers' free speech rights by requiring them to tell patients about an unconstitutional law. In addition, the suit challenged the law's costly fetal tissue burial and cremation requirements, which are not in place for other kinds of medical waste.

Separately, Indiana University also has filed a lawsuit against the law.

Judge grants preliminary injunction

In late June, Federal District Court for Southern Indiana Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued a preliminary injunction, stating that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on a woman's right to abortion prior to fetal viability. In the ruling, Pratt wrote that restricting the reasons for an abortion is "inconsistent with the notion of a right rooted in privacy concerns and a liberty right to make independent decisions."

The order also blocks the law's fetal tissue disposal requirements (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/1).

Latest developments

On Tuesday, Bryan Corbin, a spokesperson for the Indiana attorney general's office, said the state will not appeal Pratt's June decision because it is temporary. He said the state would let "the case ... proceed on the merits to the final judgment stage."

However, Corbin said the state "would likely appeal" a ruling that permanently blocked the law.

Separately, Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said the plaintiffs plan to file for summary judgment and request a permanent injunction on the law.

According to Falk, ACLU of Indiana will file briefs in support of those efforts over the next several months. A ruling would likely not be issued until 2017, when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) is no longer in office (AP/Seattle Times, 8/2).