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ACLU and Planned Parenthood challenge Indiana’s abortion restrictions

The near total ban on abortion procedures is slated to go into effect on Sept. 15.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (CN) — Abortion providers and advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday that challenges the restrictive abortion law Indiana passed earlier this month.

The law known as SB 1 bans almost all abortion procedures in the Hoosier state except abortions performed within 10 weeks of fertilization caused by rape or incest, cases of lethal fetal anomalies and in situations where the mother’s physical health and life are in danger.

Physicians who violate the rules of SB 1, which was passed in a summer session with only Republican support, could face up to a $10,000 fine and could be charged with a Level 5 felony, which carries a sentence of one to six years’ imprisonment.

The 22-page lawsuit filed by the ACLU in Monroe County takes aim at almost the entire law, claiming that portions of it are unworkable and violate a women’s right to medical privacy.

“From its very inception, the Indiana Constitution has protected the right to privacy. Implicit in this right, is the right for a woman to make medical decisions regarding her own reproductive health. This ban on abortion will force Hoosiers to carry pregnancies against their will, leading to life-altering consequences and serious health risks,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, in a statement.

Planned Parenthood is joined as plaintiff in the lawsuit by Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, All-Options Inc. and doctor Amy Caldwell, who all ask the court to declare the ban unconstitutional.

“Today, we are asking that the court does what Indiana lawmakers didn’t — protect Hoosiers’ constitutional rights. Unless this ban is blocked, patients seeking abortion will be unable to access timely and potentially life-saving care in their own communities,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement.

The lawsuit specifically claims that SB 1 makes abortion procedures unfairly difficult to obtain even for patients who qualify for one of the few exceptions. Central to this argument is that the law unfairly eliminates abortion clinics as a place where patients may receive the procedure and instead forces individuals to seek abortions at a licensed hospital.

According to a report published by the state, almost all abortions performed in Indiana in 2022 were performed at abortion clinics and not at hospitals.

“SB 1’s Hospitalization Requirement will also make it impossible for all patients who qualify for SB 1’s limited exceptions to obtain care, because an abortion at a hospital will be prohibitively expensive for many patients, because the availability of abortion in a hospital setting is not generally known to the public and because there is no clear way for patients to arrange for such care,” the lawsuit states.

The health of the mother exception is also challenged by the lawsuit, which claims that the law does not clearly state when a physician may perform the procedure when the mother’s health is at risk.

“The uncertainty surrounding when physicians are protected from prosecution under the Health or Life Exception has significant consequences. The Health and Life Exception’s ambiguity about how late in pregnancy a physician can perform an abortion prevents doctors from knowing if performing certain abortions will expose them to prosecution. Thus, SB 1 will force physicians to make excruciating decisions that pit their commitment to preserving the life and health of their patients against their own freedom,” the lawsuit states.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who supports the law, issued a statement today in reaction to the lawsuit.

“The left is notorious for fighting to erase all of the progress and protections secured by the pro-life movement. Hoosiers respect and value all lives, including the lives of the unborn. This is why our legislators voted to stop these inhumane practices, and it’s why my office is dedicated to defending this life-saving law. We don’t need the warped opinions of organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood dictating how we do things in Indiana,” Rokita said.

The defendants of the lawsuit are the members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana and seven county prosecutors, who are sued in their official capacities.

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