Court Rulings on Abortion Finalized in Indiana

Steven Aden

8/6/2013 12:01:00 AM - Steven Aden

In the last few days, one skirmish among dozens in the coast-to-coast legal abortion war came to an end in Indiana when the state and Planned Parenthood reached an agreement that formalizes a series of rulings by federal courts over the last two years.

Indiana’s Act 1210—passed in the spring of 2011—was an omnibus abortion regulation bill that sought to de-fund abortion sellers by stipulating that no state or federal funds would be provided to “any entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed.”

This is substantially identical to de-funding measures in Texas and Missouri that federal appeals courts have upheld.

The act also included two provisions designed to strengthen full, informed consent for abortion. One provision mandated that abortionists tell mothers that human life begins at fertilization and the second obliged them to tell them that scientific information shows that a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks gestation.

Planned Parenthood challenged all of these provisions in court, and after a series of rulings by federal trial and appeals courts and a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear the case, here is where the tally stood at the end of the day:

The fetal pain disclosure was held inapplicable to Planned Parenthood, based principally on its representation that it only does first-trimester abortions. While the trial court credited the scientific information provided by the state’s experts that infants in the womb can feel pain beginning between 16 and 18 weeks gestation, it ruled that since this was after the time period when Planned Parenthood does them, the disclosure was misleading as to its operation. The provision remains applicable, however, to later-term abortion operations.

The state and Planned Parenthood agreed the de-funding provision could not be applied to prevent the nation’s largest abortionist from participating in the Medicaid family planning program, because federal law controlled the conditions a state may place on Medicaid providers.

On the other hand, Planned Parenthood also conceded that the de-funding provision would lawfully strip the organization of preventive services block grant funding, as the court of appeals had ruled; and

Planned Parenthood abandoned its challenge to the “human life” disclosure, in view of the trial court’s ruling that it was a truthful and potentially helpful statement.

And so it goes, in courts across the country. Honest disclosures to mothers about the life in their womb are generally upheld, as the federal appeals court for Texas upheld that state’s ultrasound viewing requirement recently. (Likely recognizing this, an abortion facility in Kansas just withdrew its challenge to that state’s “human life” disclosure after railing against it as “deceptive” in public media for weeks.)

De-funding provisions are successful regarding some programs and unsuccessful regarding others, depending on the amount of control the pro-abortion Obama administration has over the purse strings.

The Supreme Court will have the opportunity in the next few months to consider 20-week abortion regulations based on fetal pain and the increased risk to mothers at that gestational age, as well as more aggressive disclosure requirements. It’s been six years now since the last High Court abortion decision, and the federal and state courts are in sore need of new and stronger guidance.

So there is progress here, albeit intertwined with a degree of frustration that certain provisions of the law are not taking effect.

Nevertheless, the lesson for pro-lifers throughout the country is to follow the example that those who’ve fought the good fight in Indiana have set: To fight for the opportunity to turn back the tide of death at every turn in the road, knowing that success is achieved by degrees.