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Judge blocks several Indiana abortion laws; parental notification, ultrasound requirement upheld

Baby in the womb
An image of an unborn child. |

A federal judge has struck down several pro-life laws in Indiana, dealing a blow to the momentum experienced by pro-life activists in the state following a previous court decision.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker, a senior judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, originally appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan, issued a lengthy ruling Tuesday weighing in on the constitutionality of several pro-life laws enacted in the state in recent years. Barker’s ruling follows a lawsuit filed by Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, All-Options, Inc., and Dr. Jeffrey Glazer seeking to challenge “Indiana’s statutory and regulatory restrictions on abortions.”

Barker’s ruling struck down several Indiana laws, including a requirement that abortionists schedule in-person visits with their patients before dispensing abortion pills, thus prohibiting clinics from dispensing the drugs to women via telemedicine appointments. It also struck down laws requiring that second-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals or surgical centers, and that abortion clinics meet basic health and safety standards.

In addition, Barker ruled that mandatory disclosure requirements included in a perinatal hospice brochure informing women seeking abortions about a baby's ability to feel pain, the fact that life begins at conception and the mental health risks associated with abortion were unconstitutional.

She contended that this information violated the “truthful and non-misleading standard” laid out in the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that upheld the right to obtain an abortion as determined by Roe v. Wade

Under the aforementioned standard, Barker explained, “the state may enact measures aimed at ensuring that the woman’s choice [to have an abortion] is philosophically and socially informed and communicate its preference (if it has one) that the woman carry her pregnancy to term.” However, the measures must include information that is “truthful and not misleading.” 

Barker cited testimony from Dr. Daniel Grossman, described by National Review as a “prominent abortionist and abortion advocate,” who argued that the brochure’s assertion that “human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm” did not live up to that standard because “there is no recognized medical definition for ‘human physical life,’ nor is there any scientific, medical consensus as to the moment in time or human biology when ‘life’ begins.”

While Barker did uphold some of Indiana’s abortion laws, pro-life groups and politicians characterized her ruling as a major disappointment.

Indiana Right to Life CEO Mike Fichter slammed Barker’s ruling as “horrific,” warning in a statement that it will “lead to a massive expansion of chemical and late-term abortions in Indiana.”

“The sweeping blockage of these common sense laws jeopardizes the health and safety of women, [and] leaves women in the dark on issues of fetal pain and the development of human life,” he added. “This is judicial activism at its worst.”

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., also released a statement in response to Barker’s ruling, and expressed disappointment that “the U.S. District Court struck down several common sense, pro-life provisions in Indiana state law that were designed to protect women and children.”

Walorski added, “The U.S. Constitution clearly safeguards life, and it’s my hope that this decision will be appealed.”

The laws Barker upheld include: Requiring that abortion facilities show the ultrasound image to mothers before deciding whether to go through with an abortion; that minors seeking an abortion obtain permission from a parent or guardian; that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital; abortion facilities collect detailed information about their patients and enter it into a database and undergo annual inspections by the state, as well as a law requiring that only licensed doctors perform first-trimester abortions.

Barker’s ruling comes less than two weeks after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an Indiana law requiring abortion facilities to report to the state any complications that arise from abortions performed at their clinics. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky had challenged the law as being “unconstitutionally vague.” 

As Indiana’s Attorney General Todd Rokita indicated in a statement, the Seventh Circuit also upheld the in-person counseling law that Barker struck down as part of her ruling. Rokita hinted that his office intends to appeal Barker’s ruling to the Seventh Circuit, vowing to “continue to fight to defend Indiana’s common sense laws and to build a culture of life in Indiana.” 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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