An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is seen in Austin, Texas, June 27. CNS photo/Couretsy of Ilana Panich-Linsman, Reuter

Injunction placed on Indiana abortion law; Planned Parenthood closes site

By  Natalie Hoefer, Catholic News Service
  • July 15, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS – A federal judge has put on hold an Indiana law that makes it illegal for women in the state to have an abortion solely based on the race, gender or disability of a fetus.

Signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence March 24, the Dignity for the Unborn law was to have gone into effect July 1, but the day before U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted a preliminary injunction on enforcement of the law.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, or PPINK, had filed the request for the injunction.

According to the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana's document on the outcome, Pratt ruled in the petitioners' favor to place a preliminary injunction on the law while the organization pursues litigation challenging the constitutionality of three of its provisions: forbidding abortion based solely on a fetus' sex, race or disability; requiring abortion providers to inform clients of this law; and requiring the remains of an aborted fetus to be buried or cremated.

In the document, Pratt states that the stay was granted because "PPINK is likely to succeed on the merits of its challenge to the anti-discrimination provisions because they directly contravene the principal established in Roe v. Wade … that a state may not prohibit a woman from making the ultimate decision to have an abortion prior to fetal viability.

"Similarly, the information dissemination provision is likely unconstitutional as it requires abortion providers to convey almost certainly false information to their patients."

The stay on the law's requirement for the respectful disposal of fetal remains was deemed "a much closer call," according to the statement, but was granted because "the court concludes that the state's asserted interest in treating fetal remains with the dignity of human remains is not legitimate given that the law does not recognize the fetus as a human person."

Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, who serves as the legislative and public policy spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Indiana, said he "wasn't completely surprised by the outcome … given the Supreme Court (ruling on abortion) and how it's interpreted today."

While he does consider the ruling an "unfortunate result," Tebbe said he was still "pleased to know that other parts of the bill are still viable and applicable, so they'll be able to be enforced."

Those parts include requiring abortion providers to give information on perinatal hospice care; a ban on group counseling before an abortion in favor of one-on-one counseling; a clarification on when the state-mandated ultrasound must take place; an update on Indiana's admitting privileges law; and an update to the "termination of pregnancy" form.

Marc Tuttle, president of Right to Life of Indianapolis, was frustrated with the judge's decision.

"Once again, an activist judge has decided that her agenda is more important than the people's concern for the lives of the unborn, especially those most vulnerable with disabilities or who are not wanted because of race or gender," he said.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced June 30 it will close its referral center in Terre Haute.

According to an interview with the Terre Haute Tribune Star, the organization's president and CEO, Betty Cockrum, said the facility had been operating in the red. She noted a 62 percent decline in the facility's activity over the last 10 years.

Tom McBroom, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute and coordinator of the Helper of God's Precious Infants, wrote in an email to The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, that the "small but strong" pro-life group "has conducted a prayer vigil (at the referral center) on the first Saturday of the month for over seven years."

He said the group knew the Planned Parenthood referral office "would eventually close" but were "taken by surprise" it would happen in July.

McBroom noted that the group's members "actually established a good relationship with the Terre Haute Planned Parenthood staff."

"We also had a few mothers thank us because their daughter was going into Planned Parenthood to seek an abortion, only to see us standing in front and this would change the daughter's mind," he said.

McBroom said the pro-life group plans to move its prayer vigil to the Bloomington Planned Parenthood abortion facility after August.

Father Rick Ginther, pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes in Terre Haute at the time of the announcement and now pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis, is grateful for the closing of the abortion referral center.

"With the closing of this facility, the gift of life is safer in the Wabash Valley," he told The Criterion. "Many folks have spent countless hours in prayer and vigil that one day this facility would close. I admire their perseverance and their faith, and am grateful to God for this closing."

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