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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE: Participants at a Planned Parenthood rally along West Jefferson Boulevard in Fort Wayne.

Friday, May 19, 2017 1:00 am

New abortion law yields lawsuit

Consent for minors at issue

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – It's beginning to be like clockwork – a new abortion law followed by a lawsuit.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed suit Thursday to block the latest abortion restrictions passed by Indiana legislators and signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent some provisions in the law from going into effect July 1.

“If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will have a chilling effect on teenagers already dealing with a difficult situation,” said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of the two-state Planned Parenthood organization.

“We encourage teenagers to have open and honest conversations with their family members, but unfortunately not every teenager is in an environment where that is safe. This law seeks to stifle open and fully informed conversation between our staff and our patients. Patients should know all options regarding their pregnancies. It is blatantly unconstitutional and is entirely without compassion for vulnerable Hoosiers.”

The two groups have successfully fought other abortion restrictions. Last year, the organization won an injunction against a law that would have made it illegal for a woman to seek an abortion on the basis of the race, gender or disability of the fetus. The law would have also required aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated.

In April, the same judge blocked a mandate forcing women to undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before having an abortion.

The law now in question concerns the rights of parents when minors seek abortions.

“Planned Parenthood claims abortion is a 'women's right,' but this rhetoric forgets we're talking about young, minor girls,” said Mike Fichter, president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life. “An abortion is not a trivial health decision to be made lightly. Parents deserve to be involved and informed.”

The lawsuit targets three specific provisions in Senate Bill 404.

The first requires doctors to verify the legal relationship between a pregnant teen and the adult providing consent for the abortion. This could be through documentation such as a birth certificate or custody papers.

Advocates of the legislation contend that other adults are posing as a girl's parents to enable her to get an abortion. The lawsuit called the requirement “hopelessly vague” and said failure to comply can lead to criminal liability.

“Imposing the cumbersome process specifically on the physician to review this information and to execute this affidavit when there are no other medical procedures – even surgical procedures in hospitals – that require this is irrational and violates both equal protection and due process,” court documents said.

The law also changes the process set up for the small number of minors in Indiana who seek an abortion without parental consent. Right now, “judicial bypass” is confidential, but the new law allows a judge to alert parents or legal guardians that a teen is seeking an abortion.

The last provision at issue is a prohibition on people aiding or assisting an unemancipated minor in obtaining an abortion without satisfying the consent procedures.

Planned Parenthood says the provision violates the First Amendment because it means the organization can't advise patients that they have the option to travel to other states for an abortion.

nkelly@jg.net