ACLU, Planned Parenthood sue over abortion complications reporting law

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky is once again challenging an Indiana abortion law it says is “a cruel intimidation tactic,” this time taking aim at a 2018 piece of legislation that was signed into law less than a month ago.

The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Indiana on Monday filed Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. v. Commissioner, Indiana State Dept. of Health, et al, 1:18-cv-1219, on behalf of PPINK in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The suit challenges Senate Enrolled Act 340, which takes effect July 1 and requires abortion providers such as PPINK to report “all abortion complications.” The legislation — which Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law March 25 — also creates new inspection requirements for abortion clinics that are not imposed on other medical facilities.

“Once again, Indiana politicians are barging into the exam room with irrational demands and intrusive requirements,” ACLU of Indiana executive director Jane Henegar said in a Monday statement. “Indiana politicians are in a race to be the most extreme in the nation as they find new and reprehensible ways to block women from getting abortions and shame and punish those who do so.”

Under Indiana Code section 16-34-2-4.7(a), reportable “abortion complications” can include any one of 26 medical conditions, such as uterine or cervical perforation, blood clots, shock or coma, among others. The law requires hospitals, physicians and licensed abortion clinics to report these conditions to the Indiana State Department of Health, which will then aggregate the data and submit it to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for inclusion in the annual Vital Statistics Report.

But PPINK’s complaint argues the phrase “abortion complications” is unconstitutionally vague and in violation of 14th Amendment due process protections. The organization also argues the law will impose “unique and burdensome” obligations on abortion-related issues in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

“Despite the fact that abortions have been repeatedly recognized as safe with minimal adverse side effects, on information and belief, there are no other Indiana laws or regulations that impose comparable reporting requirements on physicians and health care facilities following procedures other than abortions, even though there is a much greater chance that many of the potential complications listed will occur with procedures other than abortions,” ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk wrote in the complaint.

Similarly, PPINK’s complaint alleges SEA 340’s requirement that all abortion clinics be inspected annually is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause because “there are no similar statues requiring an annual inspection of hospitals and ambulatory outpatient surgery centers.”

“At Planned Parenthood, patient safety is our top priority,” PPINK President and CEO Christie Gillespie said in a statement. “SEA 340 is not about patient safety. Abortion care is already incredibly safe.”

The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that SEA 340’s provisions are unconstitutional and a preliminary injunction against I.C. sections 16-21-2-2.6 and 16-34-2-4.7(a) (eff. July 1, 2018), as well as costs and attorneys’ fees.

SEA 340 was drafted this year by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, who could not immediately be reached for comment. Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill’s office, which will represent the state in the litigation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Monday’s complaint comes less than one week after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a victory to PPINK in similar litigation, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc., et al. v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, et al., 17-3163. After hearing oral argument in that case in February, the circuit panel struck down House Enrolled Act 1337, which prohibited a woman from terminating her pregnancy because of gender, race or disability.

Senior Judge Daniel Manion dissented from the majority’s April 19 decision, writing that though precedent required the panel to uphold a lower court decision to strike HEA 1337, the U.S. Supreme Court should revisit its abortion precedent, including Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 153 (1973).

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