Indiana’s abortion laws likely to tighten before Legislature acts

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Indiana’s abortion laws will likely be tightened even before the Legislature is expected to start debating additional abortion restrictions later this month.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana conceded defeat Friday in their fight to block two anti-abortion laws following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month that abortion wasn’t constitutionally protected. That led the state attorney general’s office on Wednesday to ask U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis to sign off on orders that would lift her injunctions that have prevented enforcement of those laws.

The laws would ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure that the legislation refers to as “dismemberment abortion” and require parents to be notified if a court allows a girl younger than 18 to get abortion without parental consent.

Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office asked in court filings June 27 that those laws be allowed to take effect. The ACLU, which represents Planned Parenthood and a doctor in the lawsuits, filed responses that the defendants would not oppose lifting the injunctions in light of the Supreme Court overturning its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that provided federal protection for abortions.

A similar effort to lift a court order blocking a law aimed at prohibiting abortions based on gender, race or disability was pending Thursday before U.S. District Judge Tonya Walton Pratt, who didn’t order an expedited response from the ACLU as Barker did on the others.

The ACLU declined to comment on its legal strategy concerning the laws. It said in a statement with Planned Parenthood, which operates four of Indiana’s seven licensed abortion clinics, that the state’s action “is just the beginning of attempts to further restrict abortion access in Indiana and we will continue to evaluate every avenue available to defend abortion access in the state.”

The state attorney general’s office hasn’t yet sought the removal of a judge’s order blocking a law approved last year by the Republican-dominated Legislature that would require doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions about a disputed treatment for potentially stopping the abortion process.

Rokita’s office said Thursday that since that law was challenged on the grounds that it violated the free speech rights of abortion providers, the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling did not directly apply. A trial in that case is scheduled for next year.

Indiana could have more sweeping abortion restrictions by sometime next month as legislators are scheduled to begin their special session on July 25.

Republican legislative leaders have said lawmakers “will take action to further protect life” but have not yet released any details on whether they will seek a complete ban or allow exceptions, such as in cases of rape, incest or to protect the woman’s life.

Democrats criticized Republicans for delaying the special session from the Wednesday start set by GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb and holding private meetings to discuss provisions of the anti-abortion bill.

“If anything, what we should be spending our time on is preparing, strengthening our safety net before we began to take away access to abortion care in this state,” said Democratic Sen. Shelli Yoder of Bloomington.

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