Federal judge blocks implementation of state abortion law



By Lesley Weidenbener

INDIANAPOLIS – A federal judge has blocked enforcement of a state law that imposes new restrictions on drug-induced abortions.

Lawmakers and anti-abortion activists joined Gov. Mike Pence in May as he signed a bill to put new regulations on clinics that administer abortion-inducing drugs. Photo provided by the governor's office.

Lawmakers and anti-abortion activists joined Gov. Mike Pence in May as he signed a bill to put new regulations on clinics that administer abortion-inducing drugs. A federal judge has blocked implementation of the law.  Photo provided by the governor’s office.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson means that a Planned Parenthood clinic in Lafayette can continue – for now – to provide the abortions even though it does not meet the physical requirements of surgical clinics.

Magnus-Stinson issued a preliminary injunction, saying that Planned Parenthood – which sued to stop the new requirements – is likely to prevail with its argument that the law violates its equal protection rights. That’s because the law doesn’t impose similar requirements on physician’s offices that use abortion-inducing drugs.

However, the judge ruled against other arguments Planned Parenthood had used to try to block the law.

“This new law reflects the policy judgment of Indiana legislators elected by our citizens,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “The court’s decision faulting the law for treating nonsurgical abortion clinics different from physicians’ offices must be thoroughly reviewed.

“Because of the narrow ruling, we will consult with our clients and decide how next to proceed in the case,” Zoeller said.

The law requires facilities that offer non-surgical abortions to meet the same licensing standards as those facilities that perform surgical abortions, including being equipped with separate procedure, recovery and scrub rooms. It exempts physician’s offices.

“The additional restrictions in this law are in no way related to patient safety,” Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in August when the group sued to stop the law.

Non-surgical abortions involve the patient taking a pill with a physician present. The process – also called a medical abortion – has been used in the United States for more than 10 years. In Indiana, the Planned Parenthood location in Lafayette is the only clinic that offers the drug-induced abortions but not surgical procedures.

Supporters argued that clinics that offer abortion-inducing drugs should be equipped to deal with medical emergencies if they arise.

Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter called the court ruling a “temporary setback.”

“We believe this action proves once again that Planned Parenthood holds little regard for the health and welfare of its clients,” Fichter said. “Planned Parenthood simply does not want to cut into its profit margin by doing the renovations required by Indiana law.”

Fichter said he is “confident the state of Indiana will ultimately prevail.”

The Republican-controlled General Assembly approved the new requirements last spring and Gov. Mike Pence signed them into law.

Last year, 8,808 abortions were performed in Indiana. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, about 20 percent of them were done using abortion-inducing drugs. The number of those medical abortions increased by 7.8 percent from 2011.


  1. It seems to me that it was announced recently that this oral medication does not stop an embryo from attaching to the uterine wall. What it does do is stop ovulation. So it is not an “abortion” pill but rather works like birth control pills. These new medical findings should be looked into scientifically before this case proceeds. Quite frankly I am very tired of the stated of Indiana being so hung up by special interest groups that the business of the entire state is being slowed to a crawl. This issue is personal business between a woman and her medical care provider. And if the state doesn’t have the correct scientific facts, it is worse yet. Lets all have a happy thanksgivng and move on already.

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