Federal Judge Blocks Indiana Law that Pence Signed Mandating Ultrasounds 18 Hours Before an Abortion

by Meteor Blades –

A federal judge has blocked an Indiana law signed by Mike Pence in 2016 when he was still governor to force women to obtain an ultrasound at least 18 hours before getting an abortion. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, the first African American ever appointed to the federal court in Indiana, ruled in the case that the state made no compelling argument that requiring an ultrasound “makes it any more likely that a woman will choose not to have an abortion.”

As in many cases where new restrictions are placed on abortion, the defenders of this law claim it protects women’s health. Foes argue that this is bunk and that this law, like others, places an “undue burden” on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. That’s language from the Supreme Court ruling in (Pennsylvania) Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and elaborated upon in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016).

The case was filed by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. The women’s health organization has six clinics in Indiana. Like many forced-birther laws, this one engages in class warfare. One of Planned Parenthood’s complaints is that the law would make it harder on low-income women, many of whom would have to travel 100 or more miles from home, and either make the trip twice or stay overnight in the city where they have an appointment to obtain an abortion. Carter Sherman reports:

Pratt said that Indiana also failed to justify mandating that women make two separate trips to abortion clinics. For low-income women already struggling with the prospect of paying for an expensive abortion, Pratt wrote, forcing them to also pay for travel, lost wages, and possible child care was just too much.

The Indiana law kept at least nine women from getting an abortion because they couldn’t afford to make two trips to the clinic, including a woman who couldn’t leave her special needs children that often, according to the lawsuit.

“The burdens it creates on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies — which are significant even if not overwhelming — dramatically outweigh the benefits, making the burdens undue and the new ultrasound law likely unconstitutional,” Pratt wrote.

Indiana isn’t the only state to mandate in-person abortion counseling—much of it filled with one-sided and intentionally misleading information. Thirteen others also impose counseling that must be done hours or days before obtaining an abortion. Twenty-six states now require ultrasounds. Three of them require that an ultrasound take place at least 24 hours before an abortion.

Whether Judge Pratt’s ruling will spark lawsuits against other states depends on a number of issues, one of which is limited resources, including enough lawyers to fight the scores of abortion laws that have been passed since 2010. Elizabeth Nash at the Guttmacher Institute says, “It might be that [lawyers] may see these as real burdens and barriers, but they might not have the bandwidth to challenge all of them.”


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos