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Clinic Fights Ind. Law Mandating Surgical Standards When Only Medication Abortions Are Offered

October 31, 2014 — A federal judge on Thursday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against an Indiana law (SB 371) that would require clinics that offer only medication abortions to adhere to the same building and equipment standards as those that perform the surgical procedure, the Indianapolis Star reports.

Background

The law, which altered the state's definition of "abortion clinic" to encompass those that do not offer surgical procedures, would affect just one clinic, a Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky facility in Lafayette, Ind. (Guerra, Indianapolis Star, 10/30).

Last November, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson issued a temporary injunction to block the measure, which had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014 (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/21).

State, Clinic Present Oral Arguments

On Thursday, Thomas Fisher, solicitor general for the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, argued that PPINK had not proved that the law would prevent many women from obtaining abortions.

According to Fisher, the law only requires the clinic to be "minimally prepared" for instances in which a woman who is prescribed medication abortion returns to the facility because of emergency complications. In such an instance, Fisher said, the clinic would need to have a setup "that would facilitate what might be needed if a physician decides right then and there" to perform a surgical abortion.

Fisher argued that the measure would not require "overwhelming reconstruction efforts," but rather "marginal changes," such as installing an additional sink.

However, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk argued that the requirements are illogical and would add needless costs by forcing the clinic to meet state building and equipment standards for surgical abortions, even though the state does not require the facility to have a physician who is able to perform such procedures.

Falk said, "You'll have a building that is surgically equipped but doesn't provide or doesn't have to provide surgical procedures. The state's ground for imposing certain requirements is feeble at best." He added that PPINK has not estimated how much the requirements might cost.

Falk noted that there was no information to suggest that any women had returned to PPINK after experiencing complications from medication abortion drugs and that the clinic only prescribed mifepristone -- the drug used to induce abortion -- for 54 women in the one-year period prior to July 1, 2013. By comparison, Falk said, the facility prescribed other medications, such as contraceptives, more than 10,000 times in the same period (Indianapolis Star, 10/30).