New Indiana Abortion Limits Called Irrational

     INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – Indiana’s new abortion law places unprecedented restrictions on women’s health care rights, as well as the rights of abortion providers and their staffs, groups claim in a federal complaint.
     Effective July 1, Indiana House Enrolled Act No. 1337 prohibits abortions, even in the first trimester of pregnancy, if the sole reason for the abortion is the fetus’ race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis of a statutorily-defined disability, or “potential diagnosis” of a disability.
     The law also dictates that Indiana’s abortion clinics must not dispose of fetal tissue in the same manner as other discarded medical material and must instead follow state-mandated burial and cremation requirements.
     Such restrictions are not required, however, if the woman assumes control of the fetal tissue after an abortion.
     Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, a doctor and a nurse filed a federal complaint to halt the legislation Thursday, saying it imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion, “even if the pregnancy is in its early stages and the fetus is not viable.”
     “Because women have a right to choose a first trimester abortion for any reason, PPINK does not inquire of its patients why they are obtaining abortions,” the complaint states, abbreviating Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. “However, PPINK is aware that some of its patients seek abortions for a reason banned by the Enrolled Act [No. 1337]. PPINK has performed abortions for patients who have been referred to PPINK solely because genetic anomalies or potential genetic anomalies had been detected in the fetus and PPINK anticipates performing such abortions in the future.”
     Compelling abortion clinic employees to inform women of something that is “clearly unconstitutional” is, in turn, unconstitutionally compelled speech that violates the First Amendment rights of both the clinic and its employees and patients, according to the complaint.
     “The government cannot compel persons to provide patently unconstitutional information,” the complaint states.
     PPINK calls the law’s restrictions on the disposal of fetal tissue “irrational.”
     In holding abortion providers to different requirements for the disposal of fetal tissue than a woman who chooses to dispose of the fetal tissue herself, the law violates the 14th Amendment rights of due process, equal treatment and equal protection, according to the complaint.
     Planned Parenthood says it complying with Indiana’s burial and cremation laws requires “significantly greater efforts to dispose of the fetal tissue” for clinics and other health care facilities that perform abortions.
     Under the new law, PPINK will have to obtain a burial-transit permit for the fetal tissue, then make arrangements with a mortuary to receive and handle the fetal tissue.
     PPINK must also assume responsibility of the remains once they are cremated, and arrange for their permanent interment or committal.
     By contrast, a woman who chooses to assume control of the fetal tissue after an abortion that is less than 20 weeks after fertilization may dispose of the fetal tissue any way she chooses.
     PPINK says “virtually all” woman who have abortions at one of its facilities choose to let the facility dispose of the fetal tissue. Such disposal presently involves having a contractor remove and dispose of it the same way as other medical material.
     “This law is clearly another attempt by the governor to end access to safe, legal abortions by imposing more unnecessary and unconstitutional restrictions on women, our health care centers and our staff,” PPINK CEO and President Betty Cockrum said in a statement. “The law limits women’s rights and shames them during this deeply personal decision by calling their motives into question.”
     The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to veto the bill, telling the governor in a letter that “it threatens both the health and the constitutional rights of women in Indiana.”
     The letter, dated March 11 and signed by 24 Indiana obstetrician-gynecologists, says the law will create a “don’t ask-don’t tell” standard of conduct for doctors and patients in Indiana, and will “force us [doctors] to lie.”
     Performing an abortion in violation of the prohibitions contained in Enrolled Act 1337 places PPINK and its staff at risk of prosecution, civil liability, and loss of licensure.
     PPINK is represented by Kenneth Falk, Gavin Rose and Jan Mensz of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, as well as Jennifer Dalvin, with ACLU New York, and Helene Krasnoff, with Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
     PPINK has 25 health care centers in Indiana and performs abortions at three locations in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville.

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