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Federal Judge Rules Ind. Requirements for Medication Abortion Clinics Unconstitutional

Federal Judge Rules Ind. Requirements for Medication Abortion Clinics Unconstitutional

December 4, 2014 — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional two Indiana provisions that would have required clinics offering only medication abortions to adhere to the same building and equipment standards as those that perform the surgical procedure, Bloomberg reports (Pettersson, Bloomberg, 12/4).

Background

The new requirements, which altered the state's definition of "abortion clinic" to encompass those that do not offer surgical procedures, would have affected just one clinic, a Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky facility in Lafayette, Ind.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson issued a temporary injunction to block the law (SB 371), which had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014 (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/31). The measure also would have stipulated that abortion clinics could not be exempt from complying with physical plant requirements, such as separate recovery rooms, according to Bloomberg (Bloomberg, 12/4).

According to the Indianapolis Star, Magnus-Stinson scheduled a trial date for June 1, 2015.

Latest Ruling

On Wednesday, Magnus-Stinson in a summary judgment ruling wrote that the law violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause by "allow[ing] the State to arbitrarily divide medication abortion providers into two groups -- 'abortion clinics' and undefined 'physician's offices' -- and treat those groups differently, without a rational basis for doing so, by requiring 'abortion clinics' but not 'physician's offices' to meet the physical plant requirements at issue."

Further, she said the law would force just one abortion clinic in the state to "either comply with certain physical plant requirements that previously only applied to surgical abortion providers, or stop providing medication abortions. No 'physician's office' faces the same choice."

The court rejected additional claims by the plaintiffs and requested a status conference to decide whether the June trial is still needed and determine the scope of a permanent injunction against the law if the case does not go to trial (Evans, Indianapolis Star, 12/4).

According to Bloomberg, a spokesperson for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R) did not immediately respond to after-hours requests for comment on the decision (Bloomberg, 12/4).