A federal judge on Friday blocked a core provision of Indiana abortion legislation that Vice President Mike Pence lauded when he signed it into law "with a prayer" last year, the Associated Press reported Monday.
The omnibus bill was described by reproductive rights advocates as "one of the worst anti-abortion laws in the country."
As Common Dreams reported when the law, HEA 1337, was passed in March 2016, it contained a multitude of provisions designed to prevent women from accessing abortions. It forced women to have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before an abortion; banned abortions when a fetal anomaly was detected; mandated the burial and cremation of miscarried or aborted remains; restricted fetal tissue donation; and required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital or to have an agreement with a doctor who does.
"This is one of the most extreme anti-abortion measures in the country and only further penalizes Indiana women and their doctors for accessing constitutionally protected abortion care," charged Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in response to the law's passage.
But on Friday, women's rights advocates found reason to hope: U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt's ruling (pdf) found that the requirement that women have an ultrasound is likely unconstitutional, and creates an "undue burden" particularly for low-income women.
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Pratt granted a preliminary injunction against the provision, and the latest decision followed an earlier emergency injunction that prevented the law from taking effect last year.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), which brought the case against the law to court with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana, celebrated the "major victory."
"The new ultrasound law creates significant financial and other burdens on PPINK and its patients, particularly on low-income women in Indiana who face lengthy travel to one of PPINK's now only six health centers that can offer and informed-consent appointment," Pratt wrote in her decision. "These burdens are clearly undue when weighed against the almost complete lack of evidence that the law furthers the State's asserted justifications of promoting fetal life and women's mental health outcomes."
"The law was passed purely to further burden access to safe, legal abortion and is in fact counter to best medical practice. Politicians need to get out of our doctors' offices," said PPINK CEO and president Betty Cockrum in a statement.
The state of Indiana has 30 days in which it can appeal the preliminary injunction. With a new governor and attorney general in power, it is unclear how the state will proceed, observed the local legal publication Indiana Lawyer.