News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Blocks Fetal Anomaly Law From Going Into Effect in Indiana

Michelle D. Anderson

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted a preliminary injunction against the law's final disposition and sex, race, and genetic anomalies ban on Thursday, just a day before the law was to take effect.

A federal judge has blocked several provisions of an omnibus anti-abortion law that would have placed restrictions on the circumstances under which a pregnant person could decide to terminate their pregnancy.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted a preliminary injunction against the law‘s final disposition and sex, race, and genetic anomalies ban on Thursday, just a day before the law was to take effect.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana to file a lawsuit and request an injunction in April, according to a local ABC affiliate.

Under the provisions halted by the injunction, pregnant persons across the state would have been banned from aborting a fetus based on an abnormality or race or gender-related reasons, among others.

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The Indiana General Assembly passed the law, also known as House Enrolled Act 1337, in March. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, signed the act shortly thereafter that month.

A similar bill failed to pass in the Indiana legislature last year. The version Pence signed this spring included a mandatory ultrasound requirement, a provision targeting fetal tissue donation, and a measure requiring physicians to provide information about hospice care to a pregnant person “who is considering an abortion because the fetus has been diagnosed with a lethal anomaly,” as previously reported by Rewire.

Reproductive health groups have said the notion of race and sex-selection abortions are based on misinformation, and disability advocates have said that HEA 1337 promotes speculation among physicians and perpetuates false narratives about the disabled community.

In her concluding statement, Pratt cited Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and said that the Supreme Court has made it clear a state “may not prohibit any woman for making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.”

She went on to say the law’s information dissemination provision was “likely unconstitutional” as it requires abortion providers to convey false information regarding anti-discrimination provisions to their patients.

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, called HEA 1337 “a harmful piece of legislation” and noted that legislators from both parties had criticized the measure, in a statement on Thursday.

“Today’s ruling by a federal judge emphasizes just how out of touch Gov. Pence’s ideology is with everyday Hoosiers and the law. The governor’s political agenda has caused real harm to the state’s already sluggish economy while also putting our reputations in further jeopardy,” Zody said.

Indiana Right to Life panned Pratt’s decision and noted that she blocked provisions of an Indiana law that denied taxpayer funds to abortion businesses and required that pregnant people be informed about a fetus’ so-called ability to feel pain in 2011.

The notion of fetal pain, as promoted by Stanford University School of Medicine professor Dr. Kanwaljeet “Sunny” Anand, was debunked in an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005.

The fetal anomaly law was among nine laws set to go into effect on Friday, according to the Indianapolis Star. One of the nine bills includes a law instituting new guidelines on police body and dashboard camera footage that will allow local police departments to decide whether it will release videos. Members of the public will be allowed to appeal a police department request for footage, according to the Star.

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