INDIANAPOLIS — The state of Indiana is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow abortion restrictions, enacted by now-Vice President Mike Pence, to take effect, despite rulings by lower federal courts that the 2016 law unconstitutionally burdens the right to abortion.
House Enrolled Act 1337 mandates that any woman seeking an abortion in Indiana view an ultrasound image of her fetus at an abortion clinic or affiliated health center, or explicitly decline the opportunity, at least 18 hours prior to having an abortion.
The federal appellate and district courts determined that requiring an ultrasound be completed 18 hours before an abortion, instead of immediately prior to the procedure, imposes impermissible restrictions on abortion, particularly for low-income women, since patients either will be obligated to make two clinic visits, often traveling long distances, or have to pay to spend a night in a hotel.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr., a Republican, insists in his petition for U.S. Supreme Court review that Indiana has long required an 18-hour "informed consent" period prior to an abortion, as well as a mandatory ultrasound, so there's nothing wrong with combining the two.
"The state has a compelling interest to protect fetal life and dignity. It also has an obligation to ensure that women do not feel rushed or pressured into getting an abortion," Hill said.
"I hope the Supreme Court will establish the clear constitutionality of this vitally important legislation."
Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, which is challenging the law on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the state's attempt to bring this case to the highest court in the land is another example of "the continued assault on women's constitutional rights.
"This law would have a grave impact, especially on low-income women who may not have their own vehicles and must make arrangements for transportation, child care and job schedules," Henegar said.
"We will remain vigilant in our defense of every woman's right to make her own medical decisions."
The Supreme Court likely will take several months to decide whether it will hear the state's appeal in this case.
Meanwhile, the justices could decide this month to grant or deny review in a state appeal of a separate provision of the same law that prohibits a pregnant woman from obtaining an abortion if she knows her child would be born with a disability.