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Federal Judge Blocks Ind. Law That Singles Out Clinic Offering Medication Abortions

Federal Judge Blocks Ind. Law That Singles Out Clinic Offering Medication Abortions

December 2, 2013 — A federal judge on Tuesday granted Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky a temporary injunction against an Indiana law (SB 371) that tightens restrictions on women's health facilities that offer medication abortions, Bloomberg reports.

The law, which would have taken effect on Jan. 1, affects just one clinic, a PPINK facility in Lafayette, Ind. (Harris, Bloomberg, 11/26).

The law requires clinics that offer only medication abortions to adhere to the same building and equipment standards as facilities that perform the surgical procedure, including extra-wide hallways and doors, a scrub room, oversized exam rooms, and a bathroom and drinking fountain in the waiting room.

In August, PPINK in a federal lawsuit argued that forcing the clinic to comply with surgical facility requirements "is not only unreasonable, it is utterly irrational." It added that the law violates women's constitutional rights to privacy, equal protection and due process (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/23). The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the suit on PPINK's behalf, according to the Indianapolis Star (Penner, Indianapolis Star, 11/27).

Ruling Details

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled that because the law treats the Lafayette clinic differently than physician offices in the state, there is a reasonable likelihood that the law violates the clinic's constitutional right to equal protection. She added, "The state has not presented a rational basis for this distinction."

The judge denied PPINK's request to also block a provision that allows the state Department of Health to grant waivers for regulations governing birthing centers but not for abortion providers.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R) had argued that the law addresses health risks associated with medication abortion and reflects "the policy judgment of Indiana legislators elected by [the state's] citizens" (Bloomberg, 11/26).

Possible Next Steps

According to the Star, the state could appeal the preliminary injunction to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The appeals court could either uphold or strike down the injunction until a full trial is held addressing the legal disputes.

Zoeller could also choose to stop defending the law and end the lawsuit. The state has 30 days to take action (Indianapolis Star, 11/27).

Zoeller said the ruling must be "thoroughly reviewed" before the state decides how it will proceed (Bloomberg, 11/26).