Doctors, Women’s Health Advocates Challenge Indiana ‘Abortion Reversal’ Law

The challenged law requires doctors to inform patients undergoing a medication-induced abortion about a disputed treatment that is claimed to stop the procedure.

The Indiana State Capitol in downtown Indianapolis. (Image by David Mark from Pixabay via Courthouse News)

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) — A federal lawsuit challenging a new abortion law claims that forcing doctors to inform patients about a controversial abortion reversal procedure is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Southern District of Indiana, seeks to halt HB 1577, which restricts access to telehealth services for abortion patients and requires doctors to inform patients about a disputed procedure that is claimed to stop medication-induced abortions.

A medication abortion is administered through the taking of two drugs known as mifepristone and misoprostol, 24 to 48 hours apart. If successful, the medications will terminate a pregnancy.

HB 1577, which was signed into law by Republican Governor Eric Holcomb in April, contains a requirement that doctors inform patients undergoing a medication abortion that it can be reversed.

But the plaintiffs say the reversal procedure is unproven and dangerous. They also argue the law violates doctors’ First Amendment rights by compelling speech.

“There is no credible or reliable scientific evidence that “the effects of mifepristone can be avoided, ceased, or reversed,” the plaintiffs say in their complaint.

They point to a study of the reversal procedure done by the University of California, Davis, which had to be stopped after three participants suffered severe bleeding.

In addition, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists claim that the reversal procedure is not backed by science and that such procedures are “unproven and unethical.”

The ACLU of Indiana, which is one of the legal firms representing the plaintiffs, said in statement that the law is unconstitutional.

“Despite our constant efforts to warn Indiana legislators and Governor Holcomb that this law is unconstitutional and would inevitably be challenged in the courts, elected officials yet again put politics ahead of women’s health,” said Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana. “These restrictions would put Hoosiers at risk while ignoring science and the rights of medical providers.”

The law also restricts of the use of telemedicine services for patients seeking a medication abortion. These services allow a patient to communicate with a medical practitioner by phone or video conference, and can be essential for patients who are not physically near an abortion clinic.

The plaintiffs say the telemedicine restriction for medication abortions does nothing but further restrict patient access.

“These new regulations imposed by Indiana lawmakers are layered on top of an already burdensome regulatory scheme, making it difficult for people to access safe abortions, and more and more difficult for us to provide this essential medical care,” said Amy Hagstrom-Miller, president & CEO of plaintiff Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. “Medication abortion is safer than many over-the-counter medications, and can be safely administered via telehealth.”

HB 1577 and its reversal procedure disclosure requirement are not unique to Indiana. Similar laws have been passed in several other states, including North Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, though all have been struck down by the courts.

The Indiana lawsuit is not the sole litigation challenging the state’s abortion regulations. Another lawsuit filed in 2018 and set to be heard in court this summer challenges a host of regulations that target abortion providers.

Other plaintiffs in Tuesday’s lawsuit include Planned Parenthood and All-Options Inc.

Defendants include the attorney general of Indiana, the commissioner of the state department of health, members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, and five county district attorneys.

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