May 29, 2024

Trial begins in amended lawsuit to challenge Indiana’s near-total abortion ban


Article origination Indiana Public Broadcasting
Protesters gather outside the Indiana Statehouse in 2022, demonstrating against the special legislative session to ban nearly all access to abortion care. - Alan Mbathi / IPB News

Protesters gather outside the Indiana Statehouse in 2022, demonstrating against the special legislative session to ban nearly all access to abortion care.

Alan Mbathi / IPB News

A group of abortion care providers is suing the state in a challenge against its near-total abortion ban. A three-day bench trial started Wednesday in Monroe County.

Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai‘i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky; All-Options; and an Indianapolis-based OB-GYN brought the amended lawsuit. The providers said in a statement the lawsuit seeks to “broaden and clarify” legal abortions under the near-total ban.

The ban only allows an abortion if the pregnant person’s serious health or life is at risk; if there’s a lethal fetal anomaly up to 20 weeks post-fertilization; and in cases of rape or incest, but only up to 10 weeks.

The Indiana Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling said the ban did not violate the state’s constitution. But, the court left the door open to challenges on the specifics of the near-total ban.

This amended lawsuit does just that — it challenges the ban on its narrow exceptions for risks to the pregnant person’s serious health or life and its prohibition on abortion care beyond hospitals and surgical centers.
 


 

Court documents filed by the providers said more than 8,400 abortions were performed in Indiana in 2021. More than 98 percent were performed at abortion clinics — the rest were in hospitals.

It also said the near-total ban’s prohibition on abortion clinics makes it harder to receive legal care in Indiana. Court documents said “on information and belief, no hospital outside of Indianapolis is currently providing abortion care.” Many pregnant people in Indiana, who have legal access to abortion care, would have to seek it out-of-state.

The lawsuit also said the near-total ban’s exceptions for serious health or life risks is “unconstitutionally narrow.”

“[The near-total ban’s] confusing definition of serious health risk and threats of licensure penalties and criminal prosecution chill Indiana physicians from providing abortions necessary to protect their patients’ lives and health,” court documents said.
 

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Special Judge Kelsey Hanlon is overseeing the bench trial. She ruled in the preliminary injunction in September 2022, which halted the near-total ban for nearly a year.

Hanlon had said in that decision that the law’s ban on clinics performing abortions — restricting the procedure only to hospitals and certain surgical centers — will limit availability, increase costs and “is unlikely to increase the safety of Hoosier women and girls.”
 


 

Lauren is our digital editor. Contact her at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

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