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  • FILE - In this April 9, 2016, file photo, hundreds of abortion rights supporters gather at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis to protest an anti-abortion law signed by Gov. Mike Pence, that is among the most restrictive in the U.S. (Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star via AP, File)

Thursday, June 30, 2016 10:08 pm

Judge strikes down Indiana abortion law

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS - A federal judge struck a blow against Indiana's latest abortion law Thursday - saying it infringes on a woman's right to choose.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect Friday.

"The anti-discrimination provisions of HEA 1337 clearly violate the first of these principles in that they prevent women from obtaining certain abortions before fetal viability," the ruling said. "The woman’s right to choose to have an abortion pre-viability is categorical; a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability."

House Bill 1337 was passed by lawmakers earlier this year. It would bar women from having an abortion for the sole reason that the fetus has been diagnosed or there is a "potential diagnosis" of a disability. Other prohibited reasons include the sex, race and national origin of the fetus.

North Dakota is the only state to ban abortions sought due to genetic fetal abnormalities.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed suit in April in an attempt to block the ban before it even begins.

Lawyers for the state argued lawmakers have an interest in "preventing discrimination" against fetuses slated for abortion based on certain characteristics. But Planned Parenthood argued the new regulations interfere with a woman's right to have an abortion in the first trimester of a pregnancy.

Restrictions on abortion prior to a fetus's viability have been struck down by courts before, but none were specific to disabilities.

There is an exemption in the law for a fetus with a "lethal fetal anomaly" that will result in the death of the child within three months after birth.

A doctor could face disciplinary action or civil suit for performing an abortion knowing the procedure was solely due to disability or sex selection. There are no consequences for the woman under the law

Indiana’s law would also require that aborted fetuses be disposed of through burial or cremation. Planned Parenthood is also challenging the fetal disposal provision, as is Indiana University in a separate lawsuit which argues that it would prevent its scientists from acquiring fetal tissue for scientific research and sharing it with other institutions.

Gov. Mike Pence and Republicans who pushed the bill through took heat after the vote - with women calling, posting and tweeting updates on their menstrual cycles in protest of the law. Thousands also attended a rally for women's rights at the Statehouse.

The final House debate on the legislation was dominated by female legislators pleading against the law but the male-dominated body approved it.

In all, five women in the House and five in the Senate supported the measure. Fifty-five men in the House and 32 men in the Senate did.

nkelly@jg.net