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Federal judge blocks Indiana abortion-drug law

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A federal judge Tuesday granted an injunction blocking enforcement of an Indiana law that would have required Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortion-inducing medications to also meet the requirements of clinics that perform surgical abortions.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky sued the state and won a preliminary injunction against Senate Enrolled Act 371 that was signed into law May 1 by Gov. Mike Pence.

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis ruled Planned Parenthood was likely to prevail on its pleading that Indiana Code § 16-18-2-1.5(a)(2) violates equal-protection guarantees because it divides providers of medication abortions into two groups – abortion clinics and physicians offices – and places different requirements on them.

In the case of Planned Parenthood’s Lafayette clinic, the law required the clinic to meet the same physical plant requirements of facilities that perform surgical abortions, even though that clinic doesn’t do so.

“The State has not presented a rational basis for distinguishing between medication abortion providers in this way, particularly when considering the statutory ambiguity between the terms ‘abortion clinic’ and ‘physician’s office,’” Magnus-Stinson wrote in granting a preliminary injunction in Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc. v.; Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, et al., 1:13-cv-1335-JMS-MJD.

According to the judge, without an injunction, Planned Parenthood would have to determine whether it would cease providing abortion-inducing pills or modify the Lafayette facility. “Given (Planned Parenthood’s) strong likelihood of success on the merits of its equal protection claim, the Court concludes that the balancing of harms favors issuing a preliminary injunction,” she wrote.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office defended the statute and in a statement after the ruling noted that Planned Parenthood didn’t prevail on other claims for injunctive relief.

“This new law reflects the policy judgment of Indiana legislators elected by our citizens.  The Court’s decision faulting the law for treating nonsurgical abortion clinics different from physicians’ offices must be thoroughly reviewed. Because of the narrow ruling, we will consult with our clients and decide how next to proceed,” Zoeller said.

 

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