Clinic Fights Indiana’s Parental-Consent Abortion Law

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky sued Hoosier State officials to stop a new law that would allow judges to alert the parents of minors seeking an abortion, even if the minor has been deemed mature enough by a court to make her own decision.

The federal lawsuit was filed by the Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday, and seeks to prevent the law from going into effect on July 1 by claiming it violates due process and First Amendment rights.

Under current Indiana law, minors are required to obtain parental consent before obtaining an abortion.

However, they can petition a judge for a “judicial bypass,” which can deem the minor mature enough make the decision or that it is in the minor’s best interests.

The law at issue, Senate Enrolled Act 404, was signed by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on April 25, and specifically allows a judge to alert the parents of an unemancipated minor seeking an abortion, even if the minor has sought and been granted a waiver to obtain an abortion without parental consent.

According to the complaint filed in Indianapolis, this could create a situation where a minor deemed mature enough to make the abortion decision for herself may still have her parents notified that she is pregnant and trying to get an abortion without their consent.

“If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will have a chilling effect on teenagers already dealing with a difficult situation,” Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in a statement. “We encourage teenagers to have open and honest conversations with their family members, but unfortunately not every teenager is in an environment where that is safe. This law seeks to stifle open and fully-informed conversation between our staff and our patients.”

Planned Parenthood is also challenging several other parts of SEA 404, including a provision that would prevent people from aiding or assisting patients in obtaining an abortion without fulfilling certain requirements.

The law’s “consent procedures” require a physician to obtain identification from the minor and parent in order to prove the relationship.

The lawsuit argues that this requirement violates First Amendment rights because it would prevent a Planned Parenthood employee from being able to refer a patient to another state that has less strict requirement for abortions.

For example, the complaint states that Planned Parenthood employees often refer its patients to neighboring states that allow for abortions past a woman’s first trimester, which are prohibited in Indiana.

Under the new law, Planned Parenthood says it could face civil liabilities for making such a referral without obtaining the proper consent.

The ACLU released a statement cementing its belief that the law violates conditional rights.

“The ACLU of Indiana stands in strong defense of a woman’s right to make decisions about her health, including her reproductive health and future. For over four decades, courts have confirmed that this constitutional right extends to unemancipated minors who have been deemed, by a judge, to be sufficiently mature to make a decision to obtain an abortion without parental consent. SEA 404 imposes new burdens on a young woman’s access to abortion and on her health care providers, in violation of often reaffirmed constitutional rights” the group said.

This lawsuit marks the third time since 2016 that the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have sued in the Hoosier State to challenge abortion laws.

The two previous lawsuits concerned a ban on abortions due to genetic abnormalities and a requirement that women undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before undergoing an abortion.

Both restrictions were signed into in March 2016 law by Vice President Mike Pence, who was then serving as Indiana’s governor. A federal judge later blocked both provisions.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said in a statement, “Our staff is reviewing the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood.  We look forward to defending the rights of parents and the welfare of children that are under attack by this lawsuit.”

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