Indy Star on 02/04/2019 by Shari Rudavsky
The Supreme Court of the United States may have the ultimate say on whether women in Indiana seeking abortions will have to pay an additional visit to a doctor’s office for an ultrasound before undergoing the procedure.
On Monday the state of Indiana asked the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking a 2016 law that would require women to have an ultrasound performed at least 18 hours before an abortion.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said he hopes the Supreme Court will rule that the law is constitutional. He called the law “vitally important.”
“The state has a compelling interest to protect fetal life and dignity,” Hill said in a written statement. “It also has an obligation to ensure that women do not feel rushed or pressured into getting an abortion.”
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky along with the ACLU of Indiana had filed suit against the law. They argued that the requirement to get an ultrasound at least 18 hours before undergoing an abortion was unconstitutional in that it placed an undue burden on the woman.
In April 2017, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued the injunction, saying that the state had provided no evidence that this part of House Enrolled Act 1337, signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence, would improve either fetal life or women’s mental health.
Fourteen months later the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision. Currently, a woman seeking an abortion in Indiana can undergo an ultrasound at the same appointment. This new law would effectively require her to make two trips, the plaintiffs argued.
“If this law were to go into effect, women, especially low-income women, would be unable to exercise their rights because of obstacles such as transportation, childcare and job schedules,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana in a written statement. “We will remain vigilant in our defense of every woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.”
ACLU officials said that at least one woman did not go ahead with her plans to abort her child in the brief period that the law was in effect. The woman, a single mother with special-needs children, would have had to twice make a six hour drive to the clinic and changed her mind, ACLU officials said.
“There is no medical justification for the ultrasound waiting period, and the requirement creates a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking to obtain an abortion,” said Ken Falk, legal director with the ACLU of Indiana in a statement.
Anti-abortion advocates praised the state for its request to the Supreme Court.
Abortions in the state spiked after Pratt handed down the injunction compared with the six months when the 18-hour waiting period was in effect, said Mike Fichter, president and chief executive officer of Indiana Right to Life.
“This isn’t about inconvenience to women. It’s about abortion providers not wanting women to be fully informed about the humanity of their unborn children when making life or death decisions,” Fichter said.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Chief Executive Officer Chris Charbonneau said that the only reason Indiana’s politicians had passed the law was to end women’s access to abortion.
“If the state of Indiana wants to address health care disparities like the infant mortality rates, it should get to work finding solutions that improve access to health care,” she said in a written statement. “This law does the opposite — it chips away at a patient’s ability to access critical health care when they need it.”
Indiana has the seventh highest infant mortality rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The high court already has a petition before it to consider two other provisions of HEA 1337.
In a separate lawsuit, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the ACLU of Indiana sued the state for the provisions in the act that would prohibit abortions on the basis of gender, disability, and race and place specific requirements on the disposal of fetal remains.
That suit had a similar trajectory through the courts. A district court granted a preliminary judgement, the attorney general appealed it, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
In December, Hill asked the Supreme Court to review the case. His request is pending.