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"Wolf in Sheep's Clothing": Rights Groups Sue Indiana Over Abortion Law

ACLU and Planned Parenthood say new law, which bans abortions in cases of fetal abnormalities, is unconstitutional and demeaning

Reproductive health advocates previously called the legislation "one of the worst anti-abortion bills in the country." (Photo: David/flickr/cc)

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have filed a lawsuit against Indiana over its restrictive new abortion law, signed in March by Governor Mike Pence, which bans abortions in cases of fetal abnormalities and imposes a litany of other restrictions and requirements.

The lawsuit (pdf), filed Thursday in U.S. district court by ACLU Indiana and the Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), states that the legislation is unconstitutional and seeks an injunction to block its enforcement. The law is set to go into effect on July 1.

"The United States has repeatedly stressed that a woman, not the state, is to determine whether or not to obtain an abortion," ACLU-IN legal director Ken Falk said. "The state of Indiana's attempt to invade a woman's privacy and to control her decision in this regard is unprecedented and unconstitutional."

Indiana House Enrolled Act 1337 prohibits abortions in the early stages of pregnancy based on fetal abnormalities and also mandates the burial or cremation of aborted or miscarried remains; restricts fetal tissue donation; and requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals.

It also requires doctors to report if a fetal abnormality was present before an abortion—which would undermine a Planned Parenthood principle not to ask patients why they are seeking the procedure—and to inform patients of the ban as part of Indiana's state-mandated "informed consent" process, which the ACLU said violates the First Amendment.

Reproductive health advocates previously called the legislation "one of the worst anti-abortion bills in the country."

Jane Henegar, ACLU-IN executive director, said Thursday that the new restrictions "demean women and threaten the quality of their health care."

Betty Cockrum, CEO and president of PPINK, added, "This law is clearly another attempt by the governor to end access to safe, legal abortions by imposing more unnecessary and unconstitutional restrictions on women, our health care centers, and our staff."

The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum also released a statement in support of the lawsuit that read, "This law is cloaked in the language of civil rights and equality for women, but it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Rather than lifting the status of women, this law is nothing more than a cynical, deceptive attempt to ban abortions."

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