Indiana's law protecting women 'unconstitutional'

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson speaks as part of an e-mentoring project involving judges of the Southern District of Indiana, presented by the Young Lawyers Committee of the Seventh Circuit bar Association. VIMEO/screen capture

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (Christian Examiner) -- On Dec. 4, a federal judge appointed by President Obama struck down an Indiana law that required clinics providing only drug-induced, non-surgical abortions to meet the same health standards as other abortion clinics.

The Indianapolis Star reported U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson claimed the law violated equal protection rights because it regulates the abortion clinic differently from a physician's office that prescribes the same abortion pill and makes "arbitrary distinctions and unequal regulatory treatment with no rational basis."

The statute "divides medical providers performing medication abortions into two groups, abortion clinics and physician's offices, and treats those groups differently," Magnus-Stinson said in her ruling.

The ruling is a loss for pro-life advocates, but not a deterrent.

"The silver lining of this ruling is that it shows legislators how the law could be simply reworded in the next legislative session to ensure patient safety is truly met," said Mike Fichter, president and chief executive officer of Indiana Right to Life said in an online statement.

"The fact that Planned Parenthood even disputed this common sense law shows the organization's willingness to put its bottom line above women's health and safety. The law is designed to ensure patients experiencing serious complications following a chemical abortion can be cared for properly," Fichter said.

According to the Associated Press, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, said in a statement that his office was reviewing the ruling and planning next steps.

"We respect the court's ruling and also respect the authority of the people's elected representatives in the legislature to make policy regarding physical plant requirements for nonsurgical abortion clinics," Zoeller's statement said. "We will consult with our clients on additional legal proceedings in the defense of this Indiana statute and explore other options."

Gov. Mike Pence signed the law in 2013 and it was set to take effect Jan. 1, 2014, but was stopped when the ACLU of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood, and, Judge Magnus-Stinson made a preliminary injunction until the case could be heard in court.

The details of a permanent injunction are to be decided pending an assessment of what damages Planned Parenthood might be entitled to receive.