IU Health gears up to comply with new abortion law with ‘rapid-response team’

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With Indiana’s law banning most abortions set to take effect Sept. 15, Indiana University Health, the state’s largest hospital system, has set up a “rapid-response team” to help its doctors seeking guidance on whether they can legally perform an abortion to protect the health of the mother and other situations.

“We know this is new territory for many of our providers,” Dr. David Ingram, IU Health’s chief medical executive, said during a press conference Thursday. “And that has increased, certainly, the anxiety around whether they are making the right decisions.”

He said the rapid-response team would be available around the clock and consist of three people: a doctor or other clinical specialist, a lawyer and a member of an ethics team.

Last year, IU Health performed 53 abortions, or less than 1% of the 8,414 total abortions performed in Indiana, according to figures from the Indiana Department of Health.

The vast majority of abortions in Indiana were performed in seven freestanding clinics owned by Planned Parenthood and three independent operators. Under the new law, abortions can be performed only in hospitals or outpatient centers owned by hospitals, meaning all abortion clinics will lose their licenses.

“We are going to continue to provide abortion care, legal abortion care, in our state, through our system for our patients who need it,” said Dr. Caroline Rouse, an obstetrician-gynecologist and medical director of maternity services at IU Health. “We know that abortion is safe. It is evidence-based. We will continue to provide that care within the parameters of the new law.”

Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature approved the tighter abortion restrictions on Aug. 5, making it the first state to do so since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated federal abortion protections by overturning Roe v. Wade in June.

The Indiana law includes some narrow exceptions: allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest before 10 weeks post-fertilization; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly.

Any doctors found to have performed an illegal abortion would be stripped of their state medical licenses and could face felony criminal charges punishable by up to six years in prison.

IU Health officials said they set up an “incident command structure” to consider dozens of possible issues arising from the new law, in which 60 of its senior leaders took part.

Ingram and Rouse said that in cases where doctors can’t legally provide an abortion, they can refer patients to states where an abortion is legal.

Last year, IU Health doctors performed 39 abortions at Methodist Hospital, 19 at Riley Hospital for Children (which includes maternity care), three at University Hospital and one at West Hospital in Avon.

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6 thoughts on “IU Health gears up to comply with new abortion law with ‘rapid-response team’

  1. Quote: “We know this is new territory for many of our providers,” Dr. David Ingram, IU Health’s chief medical executive, said during a press conference Thursday. “And that has increased, certainly, the anxiety around whether they are making the right decisions.”

    Really? Perhaps they should re-read The Hippocratic Oath.

  2. This is why IU will never get another dime from me. Providing healthcare to the mother is one thing, finding a way to kill a baby that is healthy for the parents convenience is just morbid for a doctor. Let the butchers at PP make their blood sacrifice. Oh wait, we stopped that.

    1. Bernard, I used to feel this same way. Then I listened to stories from individuals that have been through this experience, and the pregnancy impacts them in many, many ways. An abortion is far from being a “convenience.” As if they stop off and have it on their way to the mall and go about their way without a care in the world. And now the pro-lifers (at least many of them) will be happy with the outcome and won’t pay a bit of care to the fact that already hard situations for thousands of expectant mothers have been made even harder. I wish the abortions didn’t happen but I’m not sure taking away the option is the right decision.

    2. I suppose most people don’t fully understand this, but the abortion care provided through our hospitals is almost always due to serious fetal genetic anomalies (not Down syndrome, but lethal conditions) or to save the life of the mother. I wish you could see what I’ve seen, you might think differently about this.

    3. They don’t care, Amy. The mother means nothing to them. They have no idea what these women go through in these situations and they do not care. They want control.

  3. It would be interesting to hear the perspective from a Catholic hospital where abortions aren’t performed as to how they navigate some of these questions (thinking ectopic pregnancies where long term viability and health of the mother are both aligned). Do they have these same rapid response teams as to determine if the needed procedure is deemed an abortion vs an unintended consequence of a procedure? What is the “success” overall and have they had to tell people to seek services elsewhere?

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