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ACLU, Planned Parenthood stop latest abortion law from taking effect

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The U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the state’s latest abortion restrictions law from taking place.

Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 404 was set to take effect July 1, but the injunction issued Wednesday by Judge Sarah Evans Barker prevents that from happening.

The ACLU of Indiana represented Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) to challenge the constitutionality of the law. The law would have required underage girls seeking a judicial bypass to access an abortion to notify their parents or legal guardians of the pregnancy and request. The law also required doctors to obtain and verify the identities of the parents or legal guardians before performing the procedure and prevented doctors and counselors from informing teenage patients of their rights and options in other states.

The ACLU argued and the court agreed that those provisions in the law were unconstitutional, violating the rights to free speech (First Amendment) and due process (Fourteenth Amendment).

 “The Supreme Court has recognized that a young woman is able to obtain an abortion without parental consent if she demonstrates a number of things — that she’s mature enough to make that decision on her own and demonstrates that to the juvenile court,” says Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana. “What this case recognizes — as a number of cases have recognized — is that if you give parents the right to get notice, that in many circumstances can be in essence a right to withhold consent or a right to veto. And the court found that to be unconstitutional.”

The case is the third time in two years that the ACLU and PPINK have successfully partnered to challenge laws passed out of the Indiana legislature designed to place restrictions or limit access to abortions.  It is also the last positive outcome for retiring PPINK president and CEO Betty Cockrum.

“We’re very pleased and relieved,” says Cockrum about the court’s decision. “It’s going to offer protection for those young women who are already in a very tough place.”

The state will have 30 days to appeal the preliminary injunction or request the case go to trial for a final decision in district court. If the state appeals the case, then the 7th Court of Appeals would hear the case and decide to uphold the injunction or lift it, reversing the lower court’s ruling. Falk hopes the state will do nothing and let the injunction stand but will prepare for an appeal just in case.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill maintains that the law about maintaining parental rights.

“The challenge of this law is nothing more than an attempt to give courts rather than parents the legal guardianship of children. When an unemancipated minor undergoes even the most basic medical procedures, the involvement of a parent or legal guardian is typically required. However, for the time being, Wednesday’s injunction essentially encourages a minor to go it alone through the emotionally and physically overwhelming procedure of aborting a human being," said Hill in a statement released to the press. "We will always support the authority of parents to know what is going on with their children and continue to defend Hoosier parents.”

The press statement did not indicate whether or not the attorney general's office will pursue an appeal of the District Court's ruling.

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