Abortion reporting rule in Indiana temporarily blocked: judge

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Just as media attention created global compassion for the young boys trapped in a cave in Thailand, ultra-sounds images of fetuses are causing Americans to rethink their views on abortion, writes Mona Charen. | AP file photo

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked a new Indiana law’s requirement that medical providers report detailed patient information to the state if they treat women for complications arising from abortions.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young granted the preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. The order blocks the provision in a state law taking effect Sunday.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state on behalf of the Planned Parenthood affiliate on April 23, arguing that the reporting provision was unconstitutional and imposed “unique and burdensome obligations.” The lawsuit contends that many of the purported complications listed in the law are extremely rare for abortions and “are more likely to occur after other medical procedures.”

Young sided with the groups, ruling that the 26 conditions listed in the law were overly broad and vague, and “not the exclusive examples of ‘abortion complications.’” The judge said the law therefore fails to show what conduct is prohibited, in violation of Planned Parenthoods’ due process rights.

The judge said that without the injunction, Planned Parenthood and its physicians in Indiana would “be subject to licensing penalties, and eventually criminal penalties, if they violate the challenged statute.”

Young, who heard arguments in the case earlier this month, also found that Planned Parenthood has a reasonable likelihood of succeeding with the lawsuit.

Attorneys for the state urged Young not to block the reporting provision. In court documents, they said the requirement “serves the public interest by collecting comprehensive data on the complications that may result from abortion and the frequency of those complications.”

Messages seeking comment from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, which defends state laws in legal challenges, weren’t immediately returned Thursday.

Ken Falk, the legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, praised the judge’s ruling, saying that “these restrictions would place both doctors and providers at grave risk of sanctions.”

“Defining abortion complications in such broad and uncertain terms makes it next to impossible for anyone to know what is or is not an abortion complication,” Falk said.

The Indiana law is the most recent passed by lawmakers aimed at eroding access to “safe and legal abortions” in the state “under the guise of patient safety,” said Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

“Hoosiers deserve meaningful laws that govern their health care and this sham of a law doesn’t qualify,” she said.

The federal lawsuit was the latest of several filed in recent years that have successfully challenged abortion restrictions passed by Indiana lawmakers, including a 2016 law signed by former Republican Gov. Mike Pence that would have banned abortions sought because the fetus has been diagnosed with a disability.

The latest law to be challenged, passed this year by lawmakers , was signed in March by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The plaintiffs initially asked Young to also block a second provision of the law that requires annual inspections of abortion clinics, but they later sought an injunction only for the new reporting requirement. They have asked Young to eventually make his order permanent, and are still challenging the annual inspections requirement.

The inspections requirement and the law’s other provisions, including rules that expand the use of baby boxes in which people can anonymously surrender newborns at local fire departments, will take effect Sunday.

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