Indiana pro-lifers lament ruling

By Natalie Hoefer

Special to The Message

A U.S. District Court judge has placed a permanent injunction on several Indiana pro-life laws, including those that required physicians examine patients in person before performing abortions and that mandated that only physicians can administer first-trimester medication abortions.

An Indianapolis Star article said several requirements in state law were deemed unconstitutional by Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in an Aug. 10 ruling in Whole Health Alliance v. Rokita.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a pro-life Catholic, said in a statement that Barker’s ruling “only strengthens our resolve to keep fighting for the lives of unborn children and the health of mothers…. We will continue to fight to defend Indiana’s commonsense abortion laws and to build a culture of life in Indiana.”

Some provisions were upheld, including the requirements that only physicians can provide first-trimester aspiration, or suction, abortions and that ultrasounds must be performed before an abortion.

But the Indianapolis Star article said the judge blocked the state’s ban on the use of telemedicine as it regards abortion—whereby doctors use an online platform to prescribe abortion-inducing mifepristone and misoprostol.

She also put a stop on a requirement that second-trimester abortions must be performed in a hospital or ambulatory outpatient surgical center; and she blocked requirements that abortion providers provide state-backed information to patients on fetal pain, the beginning of life and the mental health risks of abortion.

In an initial statement following the ruling, Rokita said he was grateful the District Court “upheld Indiana’s eminently reasonable laws requiring ultrasounds, limiting surgical abortions to licensed physicians, ensuring pre-abortion counseling sessions are provided by physicians or advanced-practice clinicians, and imposing criminal penalties for violations of abortion laws.”

But he lamented the injunction placed on other provisions in the law, thus contradicting “binding precedent, including a 7th Circuit (appeals court) decision that upheld the very same in-person-counseling Indiana law that the district court invalidated today.”

In an interview with The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Rokita noted the recent ruling “underscores how real this fight is in legal terms, period. We have a real fight on our hands, and these recent rulings—not just Judge Barker’s ruling—point out how chaotic these rulings are becoming. The precedent doesn’t jive across the country, so judges take liberty by applying facts that would have otherwise been decided against. That leads to a lot of chaotic jurisprudence.”

The attorney general’s filing with the U.S. 7th District Court of Appeals is for a stay against the permanent injunctions. But Rokita is willing to “go to the U.S. Supreme Court if we have to.”

“We’re going to hope that the 7th Circuit recognizes the right of society—a group of people, in this case Hoosiers—who elected representatives as their lawmakers, to respect the laws those representatives make. We don’t find anything Indiana has done as being unconstitutional.”