INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – A federal judge permanently struck down several parts of a controversial Indiana law that would have banned abortions motivated by the fetus’ gender, race or disability.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit almost immediately after the law, known as House Enrolled Act 1337, was signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence in March 2016.
The law contains several restrictions on abortions, but chief among them is an outright ban on abortions that are motivated by race, national origin, gender, ancestry or the diagnosis of a disability.
This provision – called the “sex selective and disability abortion ban” – also bars abortions on the potential diagnosis of a health problem, and is coupled with another provision that requires doctors to inform patients about such restrictions.
Indiana had tried to justify the law by claiming that the state’s interest in potential life was enough to support the provision and the ban on selective abortions.
Judge Pratt disagreed, writing, “The lack of authority supporting the state’s position likely stems from the fact that it is contrary to the core legal rights on which a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy prior to viability are predicated.”
In addition to the part of the law that banned selective abortions, the judge also struck down another provision dictating how the remains of a fetus are to be handled. The state said the remains of a fetus should be treated the same way under law as the remains of a deceased person.
Pratt found this provision unconstitutional, ruling that the government has no interest in the remains and that the law prior to HEA 1337 provided “ample leeway” for honoring the mother’s beliefs.
Explaining how state law worked before the controversial abortion law, Pratt wrote, “A patient was permitted to take possession of the fetal tissue, whether the result of an abortion or a miscarriage, and dispose of it in whatever manner she chose, including in accordance with her particular religious or cultural beliefs.”
Pratt also took issue with a part of the law that allowed for the “simultaneous cremation of fetal tissue from an unspecified number of patients.”
“The court sees no rational relationship between the state’s purported goal—treating fetal tissue like human remains—and the law as written, given that it permits both the release of fetal tissue to patients with no restrictions whatsoever, and the mass cremation of fetal tissue,” she wrote.
It is unclear if state officials plan to appeal the ruling.
Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in a statement that HEA 1337 “is just another example of politicians coming between physicians and patients.”
“Every person deserves the right to make their own personal decisions about abortion,” she said. “There is no medical basis for these restrictions.”
Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, said “unnecessary restrictions such as these demean women and threaten the quality of their health care.”