Mt. Vernon Register-News

Community News Network

March 5, 2013

ACLU vows to challenge Indiana abortion bill

INDIANAPOLIS — A controversial bill that imposes new state requirements on clinics that offer the abortion pill is likely headed for a constitutional challenge if passed and signed into law, as expected.

Opponents of the bill say it would force women seeking the abortion pill to undergo an invasive procedure known as a transvaginal ultrasound and would impose other restrictions that have been struck down by the federal courts.

Ken Falk, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the legislation will be challenged in court “as soon as it’s signed into law by the governor.”

If so, it would be the second abortion-related bill passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly over the last two years to be challenged in court.

Last November, a federal appeals court barred Indiana from enforcing a 2011 state law that would have stripped Medicaid funding from any health care provider that offered abortion services.

Falk brought that 2011 case against the state on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, which stood to lose funding for all health care services it provides because it also offers abortion services.

The current legislation, Senate Bill 371, which passed out of the Senate last week on a 33-16 vote, covers clinics that dispense an abortion-inducing drug, RU 486, which can only be used during the early weeks of pregnancy.

Women who receive the drug at the clinic would be required to have ultrasound. The bill doesn’t specify what type of ultrasound must be done. The bill’s author, Republican Sen. Travis Holdman, said he’s had several physicians tell him that a less invasive, abdominal ultrasound can be performed.

But Falk points to the testimony of several medical experts, including Dr. John Stutsman, an Indiana University School of Medicine professor and obstetrician-gynecologist, who told legislators that the bill would essentially force women seeking the procedure to undergo an invasive transvaginal procedure because the abortion pill is given early on in pregnancy, when the embryo or fetus is too small to be detected by an abdominal ultrasound.  

In a transvaginal ultrasound, a several-inch long probe is inserted through the birth canal into a woman’s uterus. Falk described it a “grossly invasive procedure” that violates the standards that U.S.  Supreme Court has set for how states can limit access to legal abortions.

The ultrasound issue is playing out in the courts. Several states now require women who have an abortion to have an ultrasound.

But in two states, North Carolina and Oklahoma, the mandatory ultrasound laws have been challenged in court. A federal court struck down the Oklahoma law, which would have required transvaginal ultrasounds in some cases, as “blatantly” unconstitutional. North Carolina’s law is on hold, after a federal court issued a temporary injunction. But a federal appeals court has decided to let Texas’ mandatory ultrasound law remain on the books.

Last year, the Virginia Legislature considered a bill that would mandate transvaginal ultrasounds for women having abortions, but pulled back after the state’s conservative Republican governor questioned whether the law was constitutional.

“The courts are split on the issue of mandating ultrasounds,” said Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights.

State Rep. Sharon Negele, a freshman Republican from Attica who’s sponsoring the bill in the House, said “it’s premature” to be talking about the whether the bill is constitutional. “It’s still in the process,” Negele said. “We still have to debate in the House.”

But Falk’s concerns about the constitutionality of the bill in its current form are significant because of his track record: As head lawyer for the ACLU in Indiana, he’s successfully challenged a string of state laws that were popular were legislators but posed constitutional issues.

They include legislation that would have allowed police to stop and arrest people they suspected were illegal immigrants and a law that prohibited registered sex offenders from using social networking sites such as Facebook.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks