Indiana abortion clinics reopen after judge blocks ban


After an Indiana judge on Thursday blocked enforcement of the state’s abortion ban, phones began ringing at Indiana abortion clinics as they prepare to resume proceedings. a week after the ban came into effect.

“People are being told that abortion is now legal again, and people are ready to get the health care they deserve and desire,” Dr. Katie McHugh, an abortion provider at Women’s Med in Indianapolis, told The Associated Press.

Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon gave a preliminary injunction against the ban, putting the new law on hold as abortion clinic operators argue in a lawsuit that it violates the state’s constitution.

Indiana’s seven abortion clinics would lose their state licenses under the ban — which allows abortion only within limited exceptions in hospitals or outpatient surgical centers.

The ban has been approved by the state-dominated legislature on Aug. 5 and signed by GOP Governor Eric Holcomb. That made Indiana the first state to introduce stricter abortion restrictions since then US Supreme Court has abolished federal protections against abortion by overthrowing Roe v. Wade in June.

The judge wrote “there is a reasonable chance that this significant restriction on personal autonomy violates the freedom guarantees of the Indiana Constitution” and that the clinics will prevail in the lawsuit. The order prevents the state from enforcing the ban pending trial on the merits of the lawsuit.

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Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement, “We intend to appeal and continue to advocate for life in Indiana,” calling the abortion ban law “a reasonable way” to protect the unborn.

Women’s Med expects to see patients again from Friday, McHugh said.

“I was really hoping for this, but honestly I wasn’t really expecting it,” she said. “So the fact that this is what happened is such a pleasant surprise and such confirmation of what we’ve been saying all along.”

Whole Woman’s Health, which operates an abortion clinic in South Bend, said its employees are “planning to resume abortion care in the near future.”

“Of course, this landscape of legal back and forth is disrupting patient care and uncertainty for our staff,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health.

Indiana’s ban followed the political firestorm a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate her pregnancy. The case got a lot of attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child was coming to Indiana because of the Ohio “fetal heartbeat” ban.

An Ohio judge has temporarily blocked that state law, saying he will allow abortions up to 20 weeks of pregnancy until after a court hearing scheduled for Oct. 7.

With Indiana on hold, abortion is banned at any time during pregnancy in 12 Republican-led states. In Wisconsin, clinics have stopped providing abortions amid lawsuits over whether an 1849 ban is in effect. Georgia bans abortions as soon as fetal heart activity can be detected, and Florida and Utah have bans that come into effect after 15 and 18 weeks gestation, respectively.

The ban in Indiana replaced state laws that generally banned abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and severely restricted abortions after the 13th week. The ban includes exceptions to allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest, before 10 weeks after conception; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represents abortion clinics, filed a lawsuit on Aug. 31, claiming that the ban would “ban the overwhelming majority of abortions in Indiana and, as such, will have a devastating and irreparable impact on plaintiffs. and , more importantly, their patients and clients.”

Ken Falk, the legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, pointed to the state’s declaration of rights, including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” when he argued in court Monday that it included a right to privacy and to make decisions about whether or not to have children.

The state attorney general’s office said the court must uphold the ban, saying its arguments against it are based on a “new, unwritten, historically unsupported right to abortion” in the state constitution.

“The constitutional text does not mention abortion anywhere, and Indiana has banned or strictly regulated abortion since 1835 — before, during, and after the time the Indiana Constitution of 1851 was drafted, discussed and ratified,” the office said in a court filing. .

Whether the Indiana Constitution protects abortion rights is undecided.

A decision by the state appeals court in 2004 said privacy was a core value under the state constitution that extended to all residents, including women who wanted an abortion. But the Indiana Supreme Court later overturned that ruling without examining whether the state constitution contained such a right.

Hanlon, a Republican first elected as a judge in the rural southern county of Indiana in 2014, wrote that the Indiana Constitution is “more explicit in affirming individual rights and limiting legislatures to interfere in personal affairs.” mixing” than the United States Constitution.

“There is a reasonable chance that family planning decisions, including decisions about whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term,” are protected by the state constitution, Hanlon wrote.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinic operators involved in the lawsuit said in a statement they were “grateful that the court provided much-needed assistance to patients, clients and caregivers, but this battle is far from over.”

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