Federal judge strikes down Pence-enacted abortion restrictions

Indiana ACLU Legal Director Ken Falk, left, and Christie Gillespie, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, speak to reporters Monday after a federal judge struck down a pair of abortion restrictions enacted in 2016 by now-Vice President Mike Pence.

INDIANAPOLIS — A pair of controversial abortion restrictions, enacted by Vice President Mike Pence in 2016 while Indiana governor, have been found by a federal judge to be incompatible with the U.S. Constitution.

House Enrolled Act 1337 prohibited a woman from obtaining an abortion if the decision to terminate her pregnancy was based on a diagnosis, or potential diagnosis, of fetal disability or abnormality, or due to the race, color, national origin, ancestry or sex of the fetus.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said the U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly has ruled that women have the freedom to choose abortion prior to fetal viability for any reason or no reason at all.

She said by declaring some reasons valid and others invalid, the Indiana law "is inconsistent with the notion of a right rooted in privacy concerns and a liberty right to make independent decisions."

"Before viability, the state's interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of abortion or the imposition of a substantial obstacle to the woman's effective right to elect the procedure," Pratt said.

"Accordingly, the court concludes that the anti-discrimination provisions of HEA 1337 are unconstitutional."

The law also required abortion providers to ensure fetal remains not taken home by abortion patients were buried or cremated similar to dead bodies, rather than incinerated through sanitary medical waste disposal.

Pratt struck down that provision after finding the state does not have a legitimate interest in mandating fetal remains be treated the same as other human remains since the Supreme Court has made clear that a fetus is not a person.

Moreover, even if the state had a legal interest, she said the law still would fail because it authorizes women to claim and dispose of fetal remains as they see fit, as well as permits mass cremation of fetal remains — neither of which the state allows for dead bodies.

Pratt's ruling is a permanent injunction prohibiting the state from ever enforcing those provisions of the law.

She previously issued a temporary injunction prior to the statute's July 1, 2016, effective date.

Leaders of the Indiana ACLU and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, the two organizations that challenged the law, said Monday that Pratt ruled correctly.

"Every person deserves the right to make their own personal decisions about abortion," PPINK CEO Christie Gillespie said. "There is no medical basis for these restrictions. This is just another example of politicians coming between physicians and patients."

ACLU Legal Director Ken Falk said he hopes the ruling will prompt the Republican-controlled General Assembly to halt its annual attempts to unconstitutionally limit abortion access.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed that a woman, not the state, is to determine whether or not to obtain an abortion," Falk said.

Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill, who defended the law in court, said he was disappointed by the judge's decision and plans to appeal her ruling to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

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