A federal judge has ruled that an Indiana law seeking to change the definition of "abortion clinic" is unconstitutional. The law would have required that any medical facility providing RU-486, the abortion pill, be defined as an abortion clinic, forcing it to meet the same stringent standards Indiana has created for surgical abortion facilities.
The law, which passed in May 2013, was put in place to target just one facility, a Planned Parenthood in Lafayette. It doesn't offer surgical abortions, but would have had to undergo expensive renovations and put in operating rooms that would have never been used.
The American Civil Liberties Union joined Planned Parenthood to sue on the clinic's behalf, arguing that the law created an unfair standard that private doctor's offices who prescribe RU-486 wouldn't have to meet. In a ruling issued late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson agreed, writing that the law was "ambiguous." She pointed out that if, as Indiana's lawyers claimed in their court filings, the reason for it was to protect the safety of a pregnant person, it should apply equally to doctor's offices: "The State's interests in maternal health, continuity of care, and the treatment of medical complications, if sincere, should apply equally, regardless of whether an 'abortion clinic' or a 'physician's office' provides the medication abortion."
That, of course, was not the point of the statute, which was a prime example of a TRAP law (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers), setting up a burdensome standard that no one but abortion providers have to meet. Republican governor Mike Pence is a big fan of TRAP regulations; when he signed the bill into law last year, he said abortion-inducing drugs "can be very dangerous." (In reality, severe complications are extremely rare.) Pence is also a 2016 presidential hopeful, and, like pretty much all of the Republican not-yet-candidates, he backs a 20-week ban on abortion. Just in case you thought we wouldn't have to continue fighting about this stuff at both a state and federal level forever and ever and ever until we all turn to dust.
A protester outside the Lafayette clinic last year. Image via Facebook