By Susan Guyett
INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Planned Parenthood on Thursday filed a federal challenge to a new Indiana law requiring clinics that administer the so-called abortion pill to have full surgical facilities, a requirement it says would halt abortion services at a central Indiana clinic.
Under the law, Planned Parenthood would have to upgrade its clinic in Lafayette, Indiana, to surgical standards or stop administering RU-486, commonly called the abortion pill, it said in a lawsuit filed in Indianapolis federal court.
Imposing surgical facility requirements on clinics where no surgery is performed "is not only unreasonable, it is utterly irrational ...," Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said in the lawsuit, which seeks a federal court injunction.
Legislators supporting the law that took effect July 1 have said it would protect women's health. It requires clinics providing non-surgical abortions to have separate procedure, recovery and scrub rooms like surgical centers starting January 1.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement on Thursday that, "We look forward to respectfully asserting the state's case" in defending the constitutionality of the law.
Planned Parenthood operates four of the 10 clinics that provide abortions in Indiana. Three Planned Parenthood clinics perform surgical abortions and administer the abortion pill at up to nine weeks of pregnancy. The Lafayette clinic offers only the abortion pill at up to nine weeks of pregnancy.
The Lafayette clinic provided 54 non-surgical abortions in the 12 months ended July 1, and other medication, primarily contraception, more than 10,000 times, the lawsuit said.
If the Lafayette clinic stops providing non-surgical abortions, the closest clinics are 60 miles away in Indianapolis or 85 miles in Merrilville, Planned Parenthood said, adding that the Lafayette clinic would continue to provide health services.
Planned Parenthood applied on July 15 with Indiana state health officials for a license and a waiver of the requirements.
The Indiana law exempts physician's offices from the requirements as long as surgical procedures performed there are not primarily surgical abortions and abortion-inducing drugs are not the primarily prescribed drugs.
The requirements violate a woman's constitutional right to privacy, equal protection and are "arbitrary and irrational" in violation of a woman's right to due process, the lawsuit said.
The two-pill abortion medication called RU-486 has been legally available in the United States since 2000. By 2008 it accounted for about one-fourth of U.S. abortions performed before nine weeks of gestation, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports the right to abortion.
As approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the drugs are dispensed by prescription directly from a physician. They are not available in pharmacies.
(Editing by David Bailey and Cynthia Osterman)