Court Affirms Bar on Indiana Abortion Ultrasound Law

CHICAGO (CN) – The Seventh Circuit upheld an injunction Thursday against an Indiana law that makes women undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before an abortion, finding there is no medical justification for the rule.

In 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a federal lawsuit in Indianapolis on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, taking aim at the constitutionality of House Enrolled Act 1337 by claiming its ultrasound provision would force many women to travel long distances to obtain abortions.

The provision required women to view the fetal ultrasound and listen to a heartbeat but prevented Planned Parenthood, which has only four locations in the state that offer abortions, from performing the ultrasound at the same appointment.

That meant women would be forced to make another trip 18 hours later to complete the procedure, Planned Parenthood argued.

In Thursday’s opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner agreed with U.S. District Judge Tanya Pratt’s decision last year that granted a preliminary injunction blocking the law.

Pratt had concluded that the restriction is unduly burdensome on women. The parties argued the case before the Seventh Circuit this past November.

The ACLU argued that the provision hit low-income and rural woman particularly hard and resulted in long-distance travel and lost pay. Anti-abortion activists, meanwhile, claimed that there had been a spike in abortions after Pratt’s injunction took effect.

Noting that women are “intellectual creatures with the ability to reason, consider, ponder, and challenge their own ideas,” Judge Rovner said Indiana could use legitimate and legal methods to persuade women with the “rhetorical tools” at its disposal, including pamphlets and brochures.

“But the requirement that women have the ultrasound eighteen hours prior to the abortion places a large barrier to access without any evidence that it serves the intended goal of persuading women to carry a pregnancy to term,” Rovner wrote in the 51-page opinion.

ACLU of Indiana Executive Director Jane Henegar said the ruling affirmed that women should rely on advice from health care providers, not politicians with an “extreme ideological agenda.”

“Indiana politicians continue devising new and ever more demeaning ways to interfere with women’s constitutional rights and endanger their health,” Henegar said in a prepared statement.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky’s President and CEO Christie Gillespie said she was glad the court had upheld the injunction.

“HEA 1337 would require Hoosiers to make two trips to their provider – a time-consuming and expensive process,” she said.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said he was disappointed with the court’s decision.

“At this point we are reviewing the court’s reasoning and considering our options,” Hill said in a prepared statement.

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