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Federal judge blocks Indiana's new abortion law

Judge says bill runs 'contrary' to established law
Posted: 1:01 PM, Jun 30, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-30 22:04:42-04
Indiana abortion law blocked by federal judge

INDIANAPOLIS -- A federal judge blocked Indiana's new abortion law from going into effect Thursday, finding it would likely not hold up to constitutional scrutiny.

Judge Tanya Walton-Pratt ordered the stay on the law – which would have gone into effect Friday – in a 31-page ruling.

REACTION GALLERY | See how Hoosiers and state officials are responding to the ruling

The law, passed this spring over the objection of Democrats and even many members of the Indiana Republican Party, would have been one of the most restrictive abortion regulations in the country. Among other constraints, HEA 1337 would have made it illegal for a woman to seek an abortion on the basis of the race, gender or disability of a fetus. The law also stipulated new restrictions on the disposal of fetal tissue.

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Pratt wrote in her ruling Thursday that the law appeared to run "contrary" to well-established Supreme Court decisions regarding abortion and that it would likely not survive a constitutional challenge:

"The State attempts to accomplish via HEA 1337 precisely what the Supreme Court has held is impermissible. The anti-discrimination provisions prohibit a woman from choosing to have an abortion pre-viability if the abortion is sought solely for one of the enumerated reasons. For this Court to hold such a law constitutional would require it to recognize an exception where none have previously been recognized. Indeed, the State has not cited a single case where a court has recognized an exception to the Supreme Court's categorical rule that a women can choose to have an abortion before viability. This is unsurprising given that it is a woman's right to choose an abortion that is protected, which, of course, leaves no room for the State to examine the basis or bases upon which a woman makes her choice."

If the law had gone into effect, Indiana would have been only the second state to restrict abortions based on the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality.

Gov. Mike Pence championed the bill, calling it an "important step to protecting the unborn, while still providing an exception for the life of the mother.”

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Pence released a statement Thursday saying he was "disappointed" in Pratt's ruling.

"Gov. Pence remains steadfast in his support for the unborn, especially those with disabilities," Pence's press secretary Kara Brooks wrote. "The Governor will continue to stand for the sanctity of human life in all stages, for the compassionate and safe treatment of women faced with an enormously difficult decision, and for the rights of citizens to determine appropriate medical safety standards and procedures through their elected representatives."

Pence found no agreement in Pratt, who said in court that the law cannot be "described as anything but a prohibition on the right to an abortion" and an infringement on women's privacy.

Outrage over the bill sparked protests at the Indiana Statehouse and the creation of an online group called "Periods for Pence," which urged members to call into the governor's office with information about their periods in protest.

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Pratt's ruling received a similarly swift reaction from Hoosier conservatives, with State Senate President David Long calling it "deeply troubling" and Indiana Right to Life saying it is an "injustice against unborn children."

The ruling comes just days after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a Texas abortion law that required clinics to meet the same standards as surgery centers.

The court said the law created an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose to end her pregnancy.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said his office was reviewing the ruling to determine whether to appeal to the 7th Circuit Court.

Read Judge Tanya Walton-Pratt's full ruling below: