7th Circuit to hear arguments over Indiana’s abortion law

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Indiana’s controversial law that limits a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion will be argued before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday morning.

A panel from the 7th Circuit will hear oral arguments in Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky et al. v. Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, Prosecutors of Marion, Lake, Monroe, and Tippecanoe Counties; Individual Members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, 1:16-cv-00763. A group of disability advocates and a coalition of biomedical ethicists have each filed amici curiae briefs in support of Planned Parenthood.

Kenneth Falk, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, will argue for Planned Parenthood. Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher will represent the state.

House Enrolled Act 1337, signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence in 2016, prohibits abortions even in the first trimester if the sole reason for the procedure is the fetus’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of a disability. Also, the law requires the aborted fetus to be interred or cremated.

The ACLU of Indiana filed a case on behalf of Planned Parenthood against the law, asserting the provisions in the statute violated the 14th Amendment and infringed on women’s reproductive rights. Plaintiffs asserted HEA 1337 “imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion because it bars that choice under certain circumstances, even if the pregnancy is in its early stages and the fetus is not viable.”

The state argued HEA 1337 was a new kind of statute that (Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey) did not anticipate. Because technological advances can now reveal the race, sex and anomalies of unborn babies, a woman could to choose an abortion if the baby is not “to her liking,” which runs counter to the state’s “well-established interest in prohibiting discrimination.”

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana permanently enjoined the enforcement of those provisions, finding they were unconstitutional, prompting the state’s appeal to the 7th Circuit.

“The United States Supreme Court has stated in categorical terms that a state may not prohibit any women from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,” Pratt wrote. “It is clear and undisputed that unless Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey are overturned by the United States Supreme Court, this Court is bound to follow that precedent. …”

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