Indiana reinstates abortion restrictions after court ruling

State will require in-person examinations before abortion can be carried out after fresh appeal from the state’s attorney general

Bevan Hurley
In New York
Thursday 09 September 2021 17:59
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A ban on telemedicine consultations between doctors and women seeking abortions in Indiana is back in force after a federal appeals court set aside a judge’s ruling that they were unconstitutional.

The Associated Press reported Indiana would also require in-person examinations by a doctor before medication-induced abortions can be performed and a prohibition on second-trimester abortions outside of hospitals or surgery centers.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel issued a 2-1 ruling on Wednesday that allows Indiana to continue enforcing those laws while the court considers a full appeal of the case.

It said US District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker’s ruling last month was inconsistent with previous Supreme Court decisions.

“Plaintiffs contend, and the district court found, that developments in videoconferencing make it possible to dispense with in-person meetings, that improvements in medicine make the use of hospitals or surgical centers unnecessary, and that nurses are competent to approve and monitor medication-induced abortions,” the 7th Circuit panel said.

“The district court concluded that these findings permit it to depart from the holdings of earlier cases. Yet the Supreme Court insists that it alone has the authority to modify its precedents.”

The decision came amid a tumultuous legal battle in Texas over its new abortion laws, which are the most restrictive in the country.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation last month that would ban women from seeking an abortion after six weeks, including the victims of incest and rape.

The Justice Department is expected to announce it is suing the state in the coming days and has vowed to “protect” women .

In her decision released last month, Ms Evans Barker said the state had only offered “feeble” explanations for the policies, which offered no clear health benefit to women.

US District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker found the state’s had only offered “feeble” arguments for its new abortion laws

“The State’s attempt to explain its basis for excluding the far-reaching benefits of telemedicine from this category of patients is feeble at best, especially given the widespread use of telemedicine throughout Indiana as well as the overall safety of medication abortions,” Ms Barker wrote in her ruling.

Indiana state has attempted to enact numerous abortion restrictions in recent years, including a law blocked by a federal judge earlier this year requiring doctors to tell women about a disputed “abortion reversal” treatment.

According to a 2018 analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Indiana had one of the lowest abortion rates in the country, ranked 35th out of 50 states with 6.2 abortions per thousand people, among those aged 15 to 44.

The Indiana attorney general’s office argued in its appeal of Ms Barker’s decision that “the Constitution does not require state legislatures constantly to update state statutes to keep up with ever-advancing technologies just because those technologies may make abortion more convenient.”

Appeals court Judge Diane Wood wrote in her dissent that the “benefits of Indiana’s law are illusory, while its burdens are very tangible.”

The Indiana abortion restrictions were challenged in a broad lawsuit filed by Virginia-based Whole Woman’s Health Alliance and other abortion rights supporters in 2018 as Whole Woman’s Health fought the state’s denial of a licence to open an abortion clinic in South Bend.

Rupali Sharma, a lawyer for Whole Woman’s Health, said the court’s decision was being reviewed and all legal options were under consideration.

The state’s Republican attorney general, Todd Rokita, hailed the appeals court decision.

“We would expect our commonsense laws to be upheld as the appeal continues,” Mr Rokita said in a statement.

“Protecting the culture of life is the top priority of my office, and we will continue fighting for every life alongside our legislative partners.”

Associated Press contributed to this report

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