The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a lower court’s decision Wednesday granting Planned Parenthood’s request to block an Indiana law requiring a woman to get an ultrasound at least 18 hours before an abortion.
Indiana law has required women to view an ultrasound before an abortion, unless they opt out, since 2011. Indiana’s Dignity for the Unborn Act, signed into law by then-Governor Mike Pence in 2016, contained an additional requirement that this ultrasound take place at least 18 hours prior to an abortion.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) promptly sued, arguing that this law was unconstitutional and unnecessarily placed burdens on women seeking abortion access. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt blocked the law in April 2017 and the appeals court agreed with her assessment Wednesday.
“In light of the evidence of substantial burdens imposed by the law and without evidence that the additional eighteen hours following an ultrasound has any legitimate persuasive effect on decision-making, the law constitutes an undue burden on those seeking an abortion without any known benefits to balance it,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote for the three-judge panel.
The ruling also accused the state of using “barriers” like the ultrasound requirement to attempt to persuade women on abortion.
“Women, like all humans, are intellectual creatures with the ability to reason, consider, ponder, and challenge their own ideas and those of others,” they write. “The usual manner in which we seek to persuade is by rhetoric not barriers.”
The court explained that the law would mean that many Indiana women “must travel great distances twice in order to receive an abortion” since only three PPINK locations in Indiana provide abortions.
“HEA 1337 would require Hoosiers to make two trips to their provider — a time-consuming and expensive process,” Christie Gillespie, president of PPINK commented following the ruling. “We are glad the court saw that there is no medical or legal justification for these rules, which would be especially burdensome for rural residents and people with low incomes.”
“Indiana politicians continue devising new and ever more demeaning ways to interfere with women’s constitutional rights and endanger their health,” Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement reacting to the ruling. “Today’s ruling affirms that deeply personal decisions about abortion should be made by women in consultation with their doctors, not politicians pursuing an extreme ideological agenda.”
Indiana Right to Life has yet to comment on the latest appeals court ruling but argued for the requirement following Pratt’s initial ruling last year.
“Women are already required to received informed consent information at least 18-hours prior to an abortion, so this change aligned the two requirements into the same time frame,” the organization pointed out.
Mike Fichter, President and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, argued that “Planned Parenthood doesn’t want to spend money on purchasing ultrasound equipment for any of its non-abortion locations. It also doesn’t want to risk losing abortion profits if women change their mind about ending their pregnancies.”