Planned Parenthood Challenges Ind. Medication Abortion Law

August 23, 2013 — Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit challenging an Indiana law (SB 371) that tightens restrictions on medication abortion and could end use of the procedure entirely at the organization's clinic in Lafayette, Reuters reports (Guyett, Reuters, 8/22).

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. The clinic regulations are set to take effect in January.

The law includes other provisions that took effect July 1. Those provisions include a ban on medication abortions after nine weeks of pregnancy and a requirement that a woman indicate in writing if she refuses to view an ultrasound or listen to the fetal heartbeat prior to the abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/2). The suit does not challenge those provisions (AP/Chicago Post-Tribune, 8/23).

Lawsuit Details

Four of PPINK's Indiana clinics offer abortion services, but only the Lafayette clinic offers medication abortions but not surgical abortions. The clinic on July 15 applied for a license and sought a waiver from the rules from state health officials.

In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood argues that forcing the clinic to comply with surgical facility requirements "is not only unreasonable, it is utterly irrational." It adds that the law violates women's constitutional rights to privacy, equal protection and due process.

In the 12 months ending July 1, the Lafayette clinic provided 54 medication abortions and prescribed other medications -- mostly contraception -- more than 10,000 times, according to the suit. PPINK said that if the clinic stops providing medication abortions, women would have to travel 60 to 85 miles to receive the drugs at another clinic (Guyett, Reuters, 8/22).

Comments on Lawsuit

Supporters of the law claim the restrictions will protect women's health. State Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R) said his office will defend the law.

PPINK President Betty Cockrum said the law was enacted to restrict access to medication abortion and is "in no way related to patient safety." She added, "This law is clearly part of a coordinated national effort to end access to safe, legal abortion by trying to shut down Planned Parenthood health care centers" (AP/Chicago Post-Tribune, 8/23).