A look at the attempt to block Indiana's new abortion law

Planned Parenthood contends law is unconstitutional, violates privacy rights

By Rick Callahan
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge will hold a hearing this week to consider a bid to block Indiana’s new abortion law from taking effect on July 1. The law, which conservative Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed off on in March, includes a provision banning abortions sought because of a fetus’ genetic abnormalities. Here is a look at the law’s provisions and at arguments likely to come up during the hearing Tuesday:


Indiana’s law would ban abortions sought due to fetal genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, or because of the race, sex or ancestry of a fetus. It also would require that aborted fetuses be disposed of through burial or cremation.

The measure was approved by Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature over the objections of many female legislators, including Republicans, who said it would go too far and that the lower chamber didn’t adequately vet the bill before approving it.

If upheld, Indiana would join North Dakota as the only two states to ban abortions sought because of genetic fetal abnormalities.


Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky contends in its lawsuit that Indiana’s law is unconstitutional and violates women’s privacy rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana joined Planned Parenthood in the lawsuit, which seeks a preliminary injunction blocking it from taking effect.

The plaintiffs argue that the law puts an “undue burden on women’s right to choose an abortion” because it bans the procedure in certain circumstances. Their suit also says women have a right to choose an abortion in the first trimester “for any reason.”


Indiana’s attorney general’s office contends that the new law’s provisions are constitutional.

In a brief, the state argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision upholding a woman’s right to an abortion and subsequent rulings “did not recognize a right to terminate an otherwise welcome pregnancy by discriminating against a particular fetus for having undesirable characteristics.”

Indiana says the law’s requirement that fetal remains be cremated or interred is “a legitimate means of ensuring human remains are treated with dignity and respect.”

Indiana University has filed a separate lawsuit that also seeks to block the law. The school argues that the fetal disposal provision would prevent its scientists from acquiring fetal tissue for scientific research and sharing it with other institutions.


Under Indiana’s law, doctors could be sued for wrongful death or face professional reprimand for performing an abortion sought due to genetic abnormalities or a fetus’ race or sex. The law has an exemption for fetuses not expected to live past three months if brought to term.

Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen said the law would threaten the “frank, comprehensive discussions” women considering abortions need to have with their doctors.

“This law places a terrible chilling effect on those conversations by saying certain aspects of the decision are going to be controlled by the government,” she said, calling that “a terrible specter.”


The case is before U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, who in 2011 ruled against an Indiana law that would have prohibited entities that perform abortions from obtaining state funding.

Johnsen said she expects Pratt to find the new abortion law unconstitutional. She said the Indiana case, unlike some that challenged abortion laws in other states, won’t require the court “to engage in any kind of novel analysis” of issues related to women’s right to an abortion.

"It should be very straightforward case, a very easy case," she said.


Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Dakota have the nation's most sweeping abortion limits, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion.

Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the institute, said that assessment is based on 10 major restrictions, including abortion waiting periods, clinic regulations and minors' access to abortion.

She said the analysis didn't take into account Indiana's new law or new abortion limits approved this month in Louisiana that are awaiting action by its governor because those laws haven't taken effect.