Indiana Abortion Law Affecting One Clinic Is Blocked

An Indiana law requiring a clinic that provides abortion-inducing drugs and doesn’t perform surgeries to meet the standards of a surgical facility was blocked by a federal judge.

Because the measure, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, treats that facility in Lafayette, Indiana, differently than doctors’ offices, there is a reasonable likelihood it violates the clinic’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in Indianapolis ruled today.

“The state has not presented a rational basis for this distinction,” Magnus-Stinson said of the law, which exempts doctors’ offices as long as “abortion inducing drugs are not the primarily dispensed or prescribed drug” there.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky sued to block the measure in August. State law requires abortion clinics to have hand-washing stations in each procedure room, scrub facilities nearby, separate recovery rooms or areas, and an emergency call system in both places.

Laws regulating abortion clinics and the doctors who practice in them have been contested this year in Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama and Mississippi.

A U.S. judge in Austin, Texas, last month struck down a law requiring doctors there who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The state won an appeals court order allowing the law to be enforced while the trial outcome is appealed. The regulation forced about a dozen clinics in the state to close, according to women’s health activists.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans was upheld last week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, a Republican, said today’s decision by Magnus-Stinson must be “thoroughly reviewed” before the state decides how to proceed.

The state argued in court that the health risks associated with drug-induced abortions warranted the heightened facility standards.

“This new law reflects the policy judgment of Indiana legislators elected by our citizens,” Zoeller said.

Magnus-Stinson denied Planned Parenthood’s request that she also block a provision allowing the state’s Department of Health to grant waivers for regulations governing birthing centers and not for abortion providers.

Unlike “the dubious distinction” between providers of abortion-inducing drugs at clinics and at doctors’ offices, abortion clinics and birthing centers provide different services and can be regulated differently, the judge said.

The case is Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc. v. Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, 13-cv-01335, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana (Indianapolis).

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