The bad news for Indiana"s pro-choice forces started early last week when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal of the state"s abortion counseling law. That let stand the much-embattled Indiana law that requires a woman to make two trips to an abortion provider before having an abortion.
Planned Parenthood"s Betty Cockrum: "It hasn"t been a good week."
The bad news continued when the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that federal racketeering and extortion laws were wrongly applied to stop blockades and harassment by pro-life forces outside abortion clinics. Many fear that conflict outside of clinics could resume. As the week ended, the weariness in the voice of Planned Parenthood"s Indiana president and CEO, Betty Cockrum, was apparent. "It hasn"t been a good week," she said. The decision concerning the Indiana law was of most concern locally. The law requires a woman to make an initial visit to an abortion provider for in-person counseling. Then 18 hours must pass before the actual abortion takes place. During nearly a decade of legal wrangling, the law never completely took effect - that is, not until last week. Though there were still options for further appeals and court reviews of the law, Cockrum didn"t hold out much hope. But the dim hope was revived on Monday when the seesaw journey of the counseling law took an unexpected turn. The law, thus far only reviewed by federal courts, was challenged in state court, and Judge David J. Dreyer granted a temporary restraining order until a hearing on March 11. Planned Parenthood began implementation immediately upon the Supreme Court decision last week. For now, they intend to continue applying the letter of law. According to Cockrum, Planned Parenthood has already seen increased difficulty for women seeking abortions. Since only six of Indiana"s 92 counties have abortion facilities, some women are already driving great distances, twice. She also expects the price of the abortion procedure to go up. Many legislators, like Republican state Sen. Luke Kenley, a candidate for governor, think the law was simply intended as harassment. "I voted against the Indiana law," Kenley said. "It seemed like an obstacle meant to pick away at the right to an abortion." Christopher Mann, executive VP of Indiana Right to Life, agreed that the law was meant as an obstacle. "Sure, it was meant to insure women make a more sober decision. We want abortion to decrease. It"s a step in that direction." Mann was pleased with the Supreme Court"s decision not to take up the law. "It"s a very good decision. It agreed with every court that had preceded it. For all major surgeries it"s good to have more information instead of less. If abortion is just another surgery, then they [abortion opponents] shouldn"t object to a sober analysis." Mann argues that groups like Planned Parenthood only have themselves to blame for the back and forth state of the abortion debate. "The reason it"s such a contentious issue is because of the abortion industry. Abortion was never meant to be a constitutional right," Mann said. Yet, on Monday, Mann"s view did not prevail. In temporarily blocking the counseling law, Dreyer cited many of the same concerns about undue burden voiced by Planned Parenthood.