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Statehouse rally set to oppose new abortion law

April 8, 2016

Opponents of a new Indiana abortion law will rally Saturday at the Statehouse against new restrictions they claim are unprecedented.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is sponsoring the Rally for Women’s Rights at 1 p.m. Saturday in opposition to House Enrolled Act 1337, which was signed into law last month by Gov. Mike Pence. ACLU filed a federal suit seeking an injunction against the law Thursday on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

The law that would take effect July 1 prohibits abortions if the fetus has or may have a disability or on the basis of race or gender. It also requires cremation or burial of fetal tissue. The suit claims the law is unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

“The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed that a woman, not the state, is to determine whether or not to obtain an abortion. Indiana’s attempt to invade a woman’s privacy and to control her decision in this regard is unprecedented and unconstitutional,” ACLU of Indiana Executive Director Jane Henegar said in a statement Friday announcing the rally.

Henegar said the restrictions demean women and threaten the quality of their health care. “The ACLU of Indiana will continue to work to ensure that every woman can make the best decision for herself and her family about whether and when to continue a pregnancy without undue political interference,” she said.

Pence has defended the law as a “comprehensive pro-life measure.” His press secretary, Stephanie Hodgin, said in an emailed statement Thursday that the Republican governor “has every confidence this law is constitutional.”

“We will work with the Attorney General to defend the law that enhances information expectant mothers receive and enhances protection for the unborn,” Hodgin said.

A statement from the Office of the Attorney General Greg Zoeller said challenges to passed laws are a part of the legislative process. “It is important to recognize that all laws passed by the elected legislators and signed by the Governor are presumed constitutional until a court determines otherwise, and I would ask that everyone respect this legal process,” the statement said.

State Sen. Travis Holdman, the Markle Republican who sponsored the bill, declined to comment on the lawsuit. But Indiana Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that backed the measure, said Planned Parenthood has fiscal motives.

“This is the same song and dance we have seen from the abortion provider anytime they feel their lucrative abortion business is threatened,” group president Mike Fichter said in a statement. “They oppose any common-sense law that protects women and children because they want to protect their bottom line.”

Planned Parenthood says the bill also violates privacy rights. The organization does not ask patients why they are seeking an abortion, but the new law would require physicians to report if a fetal anomaly had been present prior to the abortion, which the groups say puts doctors at risk of being reprimanded.

The suit will go to U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, who in 2011 ruled against a law that would have prohibited entities who perform abortions from getting state funding.

North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature passed a measure in March 2013 that blocks abortions based on unwanted gender or a genetic defect. The state’s sole abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, has said the ban doesn’t affect it in part because most genetic abnormalities are not detected until after 16 weeks into a pregnancy, when the clinic ceases providing abortions.

Minnesota, Oklahoma and Arizona require women to receive counseling on perinatal hospice services if they are seeking abortions because of a lethal fetal abnormality, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion. Kansas requires counseling on perinatal hospice services before all abortions.

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