Federal judge rules against several Indiana abortion laws

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that several of Indiana’s laws restricting abortion are unconstitutional, including the state’s ban on telemedicine consultations between doctors and women seeking abortions.

The judge’s ruling also upheld other state abortion limits that were challenged in a broad lawsuit filed by Virginia-based Whole Woman’s Health Alliance in 2018 as it fought the denial of a license to open an abortion clinic in South Bend.

U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued a permanent injunction against the telemedicine ban, along with state laws requiring in-person examinations by a doctor before medication abortions and the prohibition on second-trimester abortions outside hospitals or surgery centers. Barker also ruled against state laws requiring that women seeking abortions be told human life begins when the egg is fertilized and that a fetus might feel pain at or before 20 weeks.

The state attorney general, whose office has been defending those laws in court, said Barker’s ruling contradicted higher court decisions and pointed toward a possible appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals,

“We will continue to fight to defend Indiana’s commonsense abortion laws and to build a culture of life in Indiana,” Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement.

The anti-abortion group Indiana Right to Life denounced the decision as “judicial activism at its absolute worst.”

“This is a horrific ruling that will directly lead to a massive expansion of chemical and late term abortions in Indiana,” organization President Mike Fichter said in a statement. “The sweeping blockage of these common sense laws jeopardizes the health and safety of women, leaves women in the dark on issues of fetal pain and the development of human life.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, said “providing abortion care in Indiana has not been easy” and that the group was “grateful to the courts for upholding the right to evidence-based abortion care by overturning these unjust and burdensome regulations.”

Barker, who was nominated as a federal judge in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, wrote that the state didn’t have the constitutional authority to restrict the use of virtual telemedicine services to women seeking medication abortions without providing evidence that it benefitted women’s health.

“The State’s attempt to explain its basis for excluding the far-reaching benefits of telemedicine from this category of patients is feeble at best, especially given the widespread use of telemedicine throughout Indiana as well as the overall safety of medication abortions,” Barker wrote.

Drug-induced abortions for the first time made up a majority of abortion procedures in Indiana during 2020, according to a state health department report. Medication abortions represented 55% of Indiana’s total of 7,756 abortions last year, about double the state’s rate from 2016.

Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature passed a law this year aimed at requiring doctors to tell women undergoing such abortions about a disputed “abortion reversal” treatment for potentially stopping the process. That law, however, was blocked by a different federal judge just before it was set to take effect July 1.

Barker ruled against state law provisions dating to 2011 that require doctors to tell women seeking abortions that human life begins when the egg is fertilized and that a fetus might feel pain at or before 20 weeks.

Barker found the requirement about when life begins was unconstitutional and wrote that “this mandatory disclosure does not communicate truthful and non-misleading information.”

The judge did uphold state laws requiring an ultrasound be performed on the woman 18 hours before an abortion procedure, allowing abortion counseling by only physicians and advance practice clinicians and criminal penalties for violating state abortion restrictions.

Indiana’s Legislature has adopted numerous abortion restrictions over the past decade, with several later blocked by court challenges.

Among those challenges, Barker ruled in 2019 against the state’s ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure that the legislation called “dismemberment abortion.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 also rejected Indiana’s appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked the state’s ban on abortion based on gender, race or disability. However, it upheld a portion of the 2016 law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains after an abortion.

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14 thoughts on “Federal judge rules against several Indiana abortion laws

    1. And he and the legislature continually waste taxpayer money on ant-abortion laws they know will fail legal challenges. HEY IBJ EDITOR – MAYBE YOU SHOULD DO A BIT OF A PUBLIC SERVICE AND INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING TO FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH MONEY IS SPENT BY THE STATE WITH OUTSIDE LAW FIRMS DEFENDING THESE ATTEMPTED MEASURES!

    2. The game plan is to just pass anything, let it flow through the appears, and hope it goes to the Supreme scourge and they throw out Roe v. Wade. The money doesn’t matter, nor do the people affected, for the pro-birth crowd.

    3. The game plan is to just pass anything, let it flow through the appeals, and hope it goes to the Supreme Court and they throw out Roe v. Wade. The money doesn’t matter, nor do the people affected, for the pro-birth crowd.

    4. Joe B is correct. Randy, since you are suddenly counting $, how much money is being flushed down the drain by mayor Pothole and his “crime program”?

    5. Chuck, you mean the $75 million that he wants to spend on more officers and technology, or the $67 million on encouraging people to not commit crimes?

      Going to be really hard for the Republicans in 2023 to claim that Hogsett is going to defund the police when he’s throwing that much money at it. Maybe a better idea would be to … come up with their own plan and ideas. I know that might be above the capabilities of the five Republicans on the CCC, though.

      Indianapolis will be stuck with Hogsett for four more years because the Marion County GOP can’t find a plan or a candidate that anyone can vote for. It’s almost as though they’ve given up.

  1. And Hogsett & Co. wonder why the murder rate in Indianapolis is so high. It begins with a disrespect for life and for the traditional family of married heterosexuals raising their children to be responsible adults. (Such an old-fashioned, out-of-date concept, eh?)

    And the beat goes on…

    1. Bob, best I can tell, your concern for life ends when a baby crossed the birth canal. You’re pro-birth, not pro-life. There’s a difference.

    2. What do you know about me or the causes to which I contribute, Joe B? If that’s “the best you can tell,” you aren’t very good at telling anything….which is obvious from your snarky posture on the matter.

    3. Go on, Bob. Tell us all about all your support for organizations and causes that support people after they are born. Or, just whine about my tone some more.

      Just admit that the Republican Party, outside of trying to stop abortion, is not a pro-life organization. The attempted “Repeal and replace” of the ACA proved that without a shadow of a doubt.

      I’ve already admitted that the Democrats are bad for supporting the right to an abortion. On the flip side, once you’re born? Far better for you if the Democrats have their way.

      Like I said elsewhere, it’s a complex issue and those who limit their definition of pro-life solely to the abortion issue need to …. mature their thinking. Or, just realize that they’re being played by politicians.

  2. Out of the womb or in the womb it’s still a living baby. We’re so worried about people getting Covid, but kill a baby before it makes it out of the womb, no problem. I’m not intensely involved in this issue and mine is a non political observation of the different way’s we view life so reading about ways to terminate a life strikes me as sad. Many don’t seem to care about children until they exit the womb. Roe vs. Wade will not be changed by this supposedly conservative court and I don’t want it to be. I just wish people would change, have a little more compassion for the unborn and not talk so politically and callously about the legality of their life.

    1. Yes, it’s sad. So is refusing to wear a mask or get a vaccination that would protect someone else’s health. Both sides have a long way to go when it comes to respect for life.

    2. I agree on that Joe B. and glad you saw my comment for what it was. Just a comment about respect for life in general and yes both sides have along way to go.

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