A 2016 law requiring Indiana women who choose to have an abortion to first view an ultrasound of the fetus at least 18 hours in advance was struck down Wednesday by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A three-judge panel in Chicago affirmed a preliminary injunction granted last year by District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt. The challenge to House Enrolled Act 1337 was brought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.
The 7th Circuit affirmed Pratt’s opinion in all aspects, finding the law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence raises burdens to a woman’s right to an abortion established in 45 years of case law since Roe v. Wade.
“In light of the evidence of substantial burdens imposed by the law and without evidence that the additional eighteen hours following an ultrasound has any legitimate persuasive effect on decision-making, the law constitutes an undue burden on those seeking an abortion without any known benefits to balance it,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote for the panel in Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc. v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, et al., 17-1883. Judge Michael Kanne concurred with a separate opinion.
“The district court found specifically that (those most burdened were) low income women who do not live near one of PPINK’s six health centers where ultrasounds are available,” Rovner wrote. “We agree with the district court on this point, but also note that the concerns about confidentiality in employment situations and abusive spouses … can create impediments that span income levels. Nevertheless, our analysis, like the district court’s, does not rely upon this larger group.”
The court noted lengthy travel was “all of the burden” in this case. Since the law’s enactment, the court noted, “women must travel great distances twice in order to receive an abortion.” It noted as an example that women in Fort Wayne, the state’s second-largest city, would have to travel nearly 400 miles over two days to have an abortion at the nearest PPINK facility that provides abortion services. The Planned Parenthood facility in Fort Wayne closed recently, citing harassment of staff, though that facility did not provide abortions.
The 7th Circuit ruling is the latest chapter in a years-long saga of Indiana abortion restrictions being passed by the Indiana General Assembly, signed into law by the governor, then routinely overturned in federal court. When these laws are struck down on constitutional grounds, taxpayers must pay the legal fees of PPINK and ACLU of Indiana.
Planned Parenthood and ACLU noted this trend in responding to the ruling.
“Indiana politicians continue devising new and ever more demeaning ways to interfere with women’s constitutional rights and endanger their health,” Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement. “Today’s ruling affirms that deeply personal decisions about abortion should be made by women in consultation with their doctors, not politicians pursuing an extreme ideological agenda.”
“HEA 1337 would require Hoosiers to make two trips to their provider — a time-consuming and expensive process,” said Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of PPINK. “We are glad the court saw that there is no medical or legal justification for these rules, which would be especially burdensome for rural residents and people with low incomes.”
ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk called the ruling “a victory for women, and another repudiation of the unnecessary and unconstitutional attempts by Indiana politicians to interfere with women’s reproductive rights.”
Watch theindianalawyer.com for updates to this story.