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Indiana wants ban on abortion pill law lifted

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An Indiana law that would require Planned Parenthood to stop performing drug-induced abortions at a Lafayette clinic or make significant upgrades to the facility wouldn't block women's access to the procedure, attorneys for the state contend.

The Indiana attorney general's office filed a brief late Monday supporting its request for summary judgment in the case. Both the state and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana asked U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson to rule in their favor after she issued a preliminary injunction in November blocking the 2013 law from taking effect.

The law would require clinics that only perform drug-induced abortions to meet the same standards as those that perform surgical abortions by adding a recovery room and surgical equipment and making other upgrades. While some Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana offer both procedures, the Lafayette clinic only performs drug-induced abortions.

The state's attorneys say that although the law might require some women to travel farther to obtain an abortion, that isn't illegal and the ACLU failed to show it would prevent anyone from seeking the procedure.

"The Supreme Court has never held that a woman is entitled to the abortion method of her choice," the state's attorneys argued.

The ACLU argued in its previous brief that the law would "irrationally" require clinics that offer medication-induced abortions to meet the same requirements as surgical clinics, whether or not they perform surgeries. But the law would not require doctor's offices that prescribe abortion pills to meet the same standards as long as abortion pills are not their main business, the group said. The ACLU said that violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

The state argued in its brief Monday that legislators have the constitutional power to treat abortion clinics and physicians' offices differently.

Betty Cockrum, the head of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said if the law is allowed to take effect, women in the Lafayette area seeking a drug-induced abortion would have to travel more than an hour to Indianapolis or to Merrillville in northwest Indiana to obtain one, because clinics there offer both drug-induced and surgical abortions. That would create a barrier to abortion for women, the ACLU contends.

If the state wins the case, Cockrum said Planned Parenthood would have to decide whether to convert the clinic so it could offer surgical abortions or to stop offering abortions there. But Planned Parenthood does more in the interest of reproductive health and contraception than offer abortions, she said.

"We will not close the Lafayette health center," Cockrum said.

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