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Indiana to appeal ruling blocking part of abortion law

July 15, 2017

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill says he'll appeal a federal judge's ruling that blocks parts of a new state law that would make it tougher for girls under age 18 to get an abortion without their parents' knowledge.

Hill on Friday criticized the preliminary injunction issued on June 28.

He said "it's easier for a 14-year-old to get an abortion than to get a tattoo." He adds that the legal challenge brought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky "is nothing more than an attempt to give courts rather than parents the legal guardianship of children."

The ruling prevented three portions of the law from taking effect July 1. They include a provision that would require judges to decide whether a minor's parents should be notified of her intention to seek an abortion.

In issuing the injunction, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker wrote that "when it comes to our children, while parents or others entrusted with their care and wellbeing have the lawful and moral obligation always to act in their best interests, children are not bereft of separate identities, interests, and legal standing."

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued the state on May 18, seeking to prevent three provisions from taking effect on July 1 and arguing that they create "an unconstitutional undue burden on unemancipated minors." Barker approved injunctions blocking all three.

One provision of the law would require a judge in most cases to allow parents to be informed that their daughter is seeking an abortion.

Barker, who was nominated to the federal court by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, had expressed skepticism about some of the law's provisions during June 13 arguments on the injunction.

Their lawsuit contends those portions violate the U.S. Constitution's due process and equal protection provisions, and the First Amendment.

Attorneys for the state argued in their brief opposing the injunction that each provision the suit challenges is constitutionally permissible. They also argued that they in part further the state's interest "in protecting pregnant minors" and encouraging parental involvement in their minor children's decision to have an abortion.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who signed the law April 25, has called the measure a "parental rights issue."

The plaintiffs argued that one of the new law's provisions revises Indiana's parental consent process in a way that violates minor girls' due process rights. Under existing Indiana law, girls younger than 18 must either get their parents' consent to have an abortion or seek permission from a judge through the so-called "judicial bypass" process. The girl's parents are not notified of her bid for an abortion, regardless of whether that judge approves or denies her request, under current law.

But the new law would require the judge considering that request to also weigh whether the girl's parents should receive notification of her pregnancy and her efforts to obtain an abortion, regardless of the decision on the abortion itself. It requires that the parents be notified unless the judge determines it would not be in the minor's best interest for the parents to know—even if the court finds the minor is mature enough to make a decision independently on whether to have an abortion.

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