August 3, 2018

Court blocks Indiana law requiring ultrasound 18 hours before abortion

On July 25, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, whose jurisdiction includes Indiana, upheld a lower court ruling blocking the state’s requirement for a woman to receive an ultrasound 18 hours prior to undergoing an abortion.

The text of the decision states that the requirement “unconstitutionally burdens a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion,” particularly citing the state’s requirement since 2011 that “at least 18 hours before a woman has an abortion, she must be given information provided by the state about, among other things, the procedure, facts about the fetus and its development, alternatives to abortion, … and have an ultrasound and hear the fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion, although she may decline the opportunity to do one or both.”

Shortly after the announcement, Indiana Right to Life (IRTL) president and CEO Mike Fichter issued a statement denouncing the decision.

“Sadly, many women will proceed with having an abortion without ever seeing the humanity of their unborn babies on display through ultrasound imaging,” he said.

The court battle began in July of 2016, just three months after the Indiana Dignity for the Unborn Act—which changed the optional ultrasound 18 hours prior to an abortion into a requirement—was passed by legislators. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) challenged the ultrasound provision. The court found in favor of the ACLU and PPINK, and the injunction went into effect on July 1, 2017.

The Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health appealed the decision, leading to the July 25 appellate court ruling upholding the prior decision.

“The blockage of this law in 2017 is already resulting in a sharp rise in abortions in Indiana, as well as a major spike in out-of-state women coming to Indiana for abortions,” Fichter said. “Once again, the Seventh Circuit is playing politics by blocking common sense legislation passed by overwhelming majorities in the Indiana legislature. We urge the Indiana Attorney General to appeal this ruling.”

Based on information from the Indiana State Department of Health’s newly-released 2017 Induced Terminated Pregnancy Report, IRTL noted in its July 25 statement that from July through December of 2017—the six months immediately after the blocking of the 18-hour ultrasound mandate went into effect—there were 3,813 abortions performed in Indiana, an increase of 496 abortions compared to the same time frame in 2016. This increase marks the first rise in abortions in Indiana since 2009.

The statement further noted that the overall increase in abortions in 2017 was 498 compare to 2016, indicating that only two additional abortions occurred prior to the mandate being blocked.

When considering such statistics, “… the impact of the blockage of Indiana’s ultrasound law is clear,” the IRTL statement said.

It also noted that a significant portion of the increase in abortions from 2016 to 2017 was attributable to a 33 percent rise in women from out of state coming to Indiana for abortions. In 2016, there were 222 abortions performed on out-of-state women, compared with 296 in 2017.

“Abortion providers continue doing everything they can to block women from being fully informed prior to an abortion decision,” said Fichter. †

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