ACLU of Indiana Wins Equal Protection for Planned Parenthood Health Care Centers

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
December 4, 2014 5:14 pm

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Judge says State cannot alter the definition of “abortion clinic” or single out health centers in Lafayette, Bloomington, Merrillville and Indianapolis for stricter standards

December 4, 2014

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Indianapolis – A federal judge yesterday issued a ruling that says the state’s attempt to regulate health care centers that provide non-surgical abortions more strictly than physicians’ offices that provide the same procedures is unconstitutional because it violates equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The case, decided by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, was brought in 2013 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky after the Indiana General Assembly passed laws–Indiana Code §16-18-2-1.5(a)(2) and §16-21-2-2.5(b)—that treated “abortion clinics” differently than physicians’ offices that prescribed the same medications.

In yesterday’s ruling, which prevents the State from enforcing the laws affecting the Planned Parenthood health center in Lafayette, the Judge said the State had presented “no rational basis for this unequal treatment.”

Judge Magnus-Stinson’s ruling also declares unconstitutional a statute prohibiting only abortion clinics from obtaining exemptions from certain licensing regulations when those exemptions would not affect patient health or safety. This affects health centers in Bloomington, Merrillville and Indianapolis.

In Nov. 2013, Judge Magnus-Stinson temporarily blocked the portion of the laws affecting the Planned Parenthood health center in Lafayette, saying the statute was fundamentally irrational because it imposed surgical center requirements on a clinic that only hands out medication, but not on physicians’ offices that do exactly the same thing.

“We are happy that the District Court recognized that the General Assembly’s attempt to impose onerous, unnecessary and unequal burdens on abortion clinics is unconstitutional,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk. “The Constitution does not allow unequal treatment of similar persons and entities without a rational basis, and here the statutes are clearly irrational.”

“We are very pleased with this victory, which protects a woman’s constitutional right to reproductive health care,” said PPINK President and CEO Betty Cockrum. “Medically unnecessary laws such as this are designed to chip away at a woman’s right to access a safe, legal abortion. Countless medical professionals are on record that such laws do nothing to protect a woman’s health and safety, and we are thankful the court recognized the irrational basis of this law.”

“We are pleased that this ruling will allow our client to continue providing the excellent care that their patients seek in Indiana,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

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