Congratulations to Planned Parenthood!  They have won yet another case against an extreme supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly to protect women’s rights to healthcare.

The Case Involved Two Issues:

  •   The first provision challenged in court required that complications from abortions had to be reported annually and a statewide report maintained. The Federal Court for the Southern District of Indiana  ruled this provision unconstitutional.
  •   The second provision challenged required that abortion clinics (that were not hospitals or surgical centers) be inspected every year.  The Court found that the inspection requirements did not violate equal protection, even though they treat facilities differently.

While it may not be a full win, I stand with Planned Parenthood in my relief that the attempt at a medically inaccurate overreach into women’s personal lives and healthcare was rejected by the Court.  

What the Legislature Tried to Do:

The bill that passed in Indiana required any physician  to report complications “arising from an abortion.” This list of complications that Indiana Republicans wanted doctors to report includes hypoglycemia, respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, psychological or emotional complications, including depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety and sleeping disorders. It would have required all physicians to report, not just abortion providers.

The words “arising from” the abortion is very vague.  Any time a patient presents with one of these “complications”, the doctor/medical provider must make some determination of cause.   So, if a patient sees a doctor for depression wholly unrelated to a previous abortion, but during the course of an appointment the doctor learns about the abortion, what should the doctor do? Was this medical situation caused by the abortion?  Solely? Partially?  And, to what degree of certainty must that causal relationship rise?   Sort of suspect?  Likely contributing?   100% positive?   Must the determination be based on studies?  What happens if the medical issue is a result of a previous abortion by the physician didn’t know to ask? Is that treating physician liable?

What the Court Decided

The court agreed there was no way to answer all these questions and held that the statute, as written, gives the doctor no standard by which to make a determination. Further, the court was concerned about the penalty for failure to report:   Failure to do so can result in a Class B Misdemeanor, an offense for which someone can face jail time.

Why this Matters for Women’s Health:

Clearly, the statute was intended, at least in part, to put pressure on physicians or health care providers to not be involved in providing surgical or medical abortions by threatening liability for physicians. It would distort actual causes of medical complications for women by trying to connect irrelevant health issues to abortions. By requiring physicians to  ask if all complications could be related to an abortion means asking all women if they’ve had an abortion – an attempt by the supermajority to pry and shame. It also could have had a chilling effect on doctors even asking the question: if I don’t know that my patient had a prior abortion, or when, then I can’t know whether a current condition is a “complication” that was caused by that. 

This is another example of dogged zealots in the Indiana General Assembly who just won’t give up, and who also won’t listen to reason when drafting bills to limit, curtail, discourage, or block any form of abortion.  How many times does this make? At least in this case, this was the second time that they had attempted to write and rewrite the same language.  How many more of our tax dollars are they willing to waste by passing clearly unconstitutional legislation attacking women?

Let’s hope our Attorney General does not feel the personal need to appeal this decision.