Supreme Court

At the heels of decisions by state legislatures in New York and Virginia to expand abortion access, the office of Attorney General Curtis Hill is asking the Supreme Court to review a proposed waiting period requirement for women seeking abortions in Indiana.

The requirement, signed into Indiana law under former Gov. Mike Pence in 2016 as House Enrolled Act 1337, would force physicians to conduct an ultrasound 18 hours before a woman’s scheduled abortion, rather than offering the service the day of the abortion.

The waiting period outlined in HEA 1337 did not advance because abortion advocacy groups, namely Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), convinced the court in the Southern District of Indiana to place a preliminary injunction on the order in 2017, preventing it from taking effect. This decision was also upheld by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a lower federal court.

Now, just weeks after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed New York’s Reproductive Health Act into law, groups on both sides of the debate are reinvigorating their stances toward the controversial procedure.

The New York measure in particular allows physicians to perform abortions up to 24 weeks or in cases where there is an “absence of fetal viability” or when an abortion is “necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” A similar measure is before the Virginia legislature would change a state law requiring three physicians to sign off on a late-term abortion to only one doctor’s approval.  

Citing the landmark decision Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey,which upheld a myriad of restrictions on abortions in Pennsylvania, including a 24-hour waiting period and a consent requirement for minors, Hill argues it is within Indiana’s rights to determine appropriate abortion restrictions.

“The state has a compelling interest to protect fetal life and dignity,” Hill said in the press release. “It also has an obligation to ensure that women do not feel rushed or pressured into getting an abortion.”

The General Assembly approved an initial 18-hour waiting period in 1995, during which women receive state-directed counseling. In 2011, legislators expanded requirements for women as they prepare for an abortion, requiring them to receive an ultrasound at any point before the procedure.

Additionally, in Indiana, private insurance policies and public funding only cover abortion in cases of rape, incest or if the woman’s life or wellbeing is endangered by carrying the pregnancy to term.

PPINK, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana, issued a swift response to the attorney general’s filing Monday afternoon. Representatives for each organization asserted that an extended waiting period would place undue burdens on women who choose abortion, forcing them to make multiple trips to a clinic.

Jane Henegar, executive director for American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Photo by Emily Metheny, TheStatehouseFile.com.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, an international research organization specializing in sexual and reproductive health, almost 95 percent of Indiana counties had no clinic equipped to provide abortions in 2014, though a majority of women (66 percent) lived in counties with clinics capable of providing the service.

“If this law were to go into effect, women, especially low-income women, would be unable to exercise their rights because of obstacles such as transportation, childcare and job schedules,” read a statement by Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, in a press release. “We will remain vigilant in our defense of every woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.”

Erica Irish is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.


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