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Lawsuit: Indiana GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Abortion Bill Unconstitutional (Updated)

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Republican-backed law contains numerous anti-choice measures, including forced counseling and mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients, regulations on physicians who provide abortion care, and a ban on fetal tissue donation.

UPDATE, September 25, 4:44 p.m.U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on Friday issued a permanent injunction blocking Indiana officials from enforcing parts of a law outlawing abortion care in cases of genetic abnormalities and mandating that aborted fetuses be cremated or buried, the Associated Press reports

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking to block an Indiana anti-abortion law advocates argue places doctors at risk of criminal prosecution and unconstitutionally burdens patients’ abortion rights.

The Republican-backed HB 1337 contains numerous anti-choice measures, including forced counseling and mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients, regulations on physicians who provide abortion care, and a ban on fetal tissue donation.

The sweeping law prevents doctors from providing abortion care if the doctor knows that the person is seeking the procedure because of the “race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the fetus.” The law also bans abortion care if the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or any other disability.

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The law’s race, gender, and disability ban imposes an undue burden on a pregnant person’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,” according to the complaint. The complaint alleges that mandating abortion clinic employees inform pregnant people that they cannot terminate a pregnancy on those grounds as part of the so-called informed consent process is “compelled speech that violates the rights of both the clinic and its employees and patients.”

There is no evidence that sex-selection abortions are widespread in the United States. Proponents of these anti-choice measures justify the policy by using cultural stereotypes that target immigrant people of color.

The ACLU, the ACLU of Indiana, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed the lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and Dr. Marshall Levine, who is contracted by Planned Parenthood to perform abortions, along with Shauna Sidhom, a nurse practitioner who also works for Planned Parenthood.

Signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence (R) on March 24 and slated to take effect on July 1, the abortion restrictions are part of a nationwide effort to shut down clinics and prevent patients who need an abortion from accessing care, according to advocates.

“While the Indiana law pays lip service to equality, it does nothing to address the very real inequities faced by people of color, women, and individuals with disabilities in our communities,” Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said in an emailed statement. “If the politicians behind this law were serious about promoting equality, they would ensure that everyone has access to quality education, healthcare, housing, and employment opportunities. Instead, they have chosen only to interfere with a woman’s ability to make a personal decision in the way she thinks is best for herself and her family.”

Attorneys from the State of Indiana have not yet replied to the complaint.

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