Planned Parenthood 'very likely' to challenge new Indiana anti-abortion law

Law imposes new regulations on clinics

INDIANAPOLIS - Planned Parenthood of Indiana says it is "very likely" to launch a legal challenge of a new anti-abortion measure that Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed into law on Wednesday.

The legislation imposes a new series of regulations on clinics -- but not private physicians -- that administer the abortion-inducing drug RU-486. It requires those clinics to meet surgical standards, whether they offer surgical abortions or not.

"I believe in the right to life and in protecting the health and well-being of women in Indiana. Abortion-inducing drugs can be very dangerous, and must be prescribed under conditions that ensure proper medical care. This new law helps accomplish that goal," Pence said.

Senate Enrolled Act 371 also requires that doctors give women seeking abortions color pamphlets showing a fetus at varying stages of development, and that a woman who wishes not to listen to the fetal heartbeat or view ultrasound images say so in writing.

Betty Cockrum, the president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said her organization is reviewing the "harmful new law" and, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, is "very likely" to challenge it in court.

"The additional regulations in this bill are in no way related to 'patient safety,'" Cockrum said. "Legislators really intend to chip away at Hoosier women's access to abortion -- and as part of a coordinated national effort, shut down Planned Parenthood's health care centers that also provide preventive care."

Planned Parenthood of Indiana has already said the bill will force expensive changes at its Lafayette clinic, where the abortion-inducing drug is currently offered but surgical abortions are not.

Cockrum said the bill is specifically aimed at that clinic. She said abortion-inducing drugs are already safe and highly regulated, and that "politicians should care about the facts, and stay out of women's personal health care decisions."

Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana's legal director, said the measure is ripe for a court challenge.

"This statute imposes requirements that fail to meet even minimal rationality standards and is, in our estimation, clearly unconstitutional," he said.

Indiana Right to Life, which lobbied hard for the new abortion law, said the new requirement that clinics meet surgical standards is critical.

"This crucial oversight mechanism will help ensure chemical abortion facilities are ready to adequately care for any woman who experiences complications following her procedure," said Mike Fichter, the organization's president.

Fichter said the impact is further reaching than Planned Parenthood's Lafayette clinic.

"It also prevents additional facilities from moving into Indiana and setting up shop without any oversight," he said.

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