Judge rejects Indiana AG’s bid to block abortion clinic

Keywords Judges / Law / Legal Issues

A federal judge has rejected an attempt by Indiana's attorney general to prevent what would become the state's seventh abortion clinic from opening in northern Indiana.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker on Friday denied Attorney General Curtis Hill's request for an immediate stay to prevent the South Bend clinic—which would perform medication-induced abortions for women who are up to 10 weeks pregnant—from opening until Indiana's appeal is considered, the South Bend Tribune reported .

Barker granted an injunction on May 31 allowing the Texas-based Whole Woman's Health Alliance to open the clinic without a state-required license, pending a final ruling in a federal lawsuit on the clinic's license that's set for trial before her in August 2020.

Hill's office appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and sought a stay to prevent the clinic from opening before the appeal is heard.

Barker said in her ruling Friday that she issued the injunction "on the prospect that the South Bend Clinic could and will be regulated by the state, in light of the history of abortion regulation in Indiana and of the existing statutory and regulatory framework.

"Moreover, every single day, Indiana permits licensed physicians 'to dispense powerful hormone-curbing, abortion-inducing, uterus-contracting prescription drugs' in unlicensed facilities—so long as those drugs are dispensed to women not seeking abortions," she wrote.

Barker, who was nominated as a judge by President Ronald Reagan, is also weighing whether to block an Indiana law set to take effect July 1 that would largely ban a second-trimester abortion procedure.

Hill said in a statement Monday that Barker's ruling "declared that something as ordinary and fundamental as state licensing – which the state does for everything from nursing homes to daycares – can be invalidated in the name of the right to abortion."

"This ruling turns the right to abortion into a cudgel against state licensing laws that the Supreme Court long ago declared to be perfectly valid," he said.

Whole Woman's Health Alliance first applied for a state license in October 2017, but the State Department of Health denied its license application in early 2018. State officials have said the alliance hasn't provided requested safety documentation.

An administrative law judge recommended that the denial be reversed in a review of Whole Woman's Health Alliance's license request, but ultimately a second license application was denied.

A spokeswoman for the nonprofit said last week that it plans to open the clinic in "the coming weeks."

The state already has three abortion clinics in Indianapolis, one in Bloomington, one in Lafayette and one in Merrillville.

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