Judge issues temporary block of controversial abortion law

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A controversial state law has been overturned in court, at least for now.

Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson issued a temporary injunction blocking a law that would have made it illegal for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Lafayette to dispense abortion-inducing drugs. The law required such facilities to meet certain surgical standards, but since the clinic in Lafayette doesn’t offer surgical procedures, they would not have been equipped to comply with the new law.

The judge ruled that the law treats abortion clinics differently than physicians’ offices which prescribe the same medications, and accordingly the judge felt that amounted to an equal protection violation. The temporary injunction means the law will not go into effect on January 1, as originally scheduled.

The issue was a topic of controversy at the Statehouse, after legislators passed the measure during this year’s legislative session.

“I think all of these kinds of efforts are aimed at shutting down abortion entirely,” said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. “We were very pleased the court issued a ruling.”

“It seemed nonsensical to us to require a clinic that does nothing more than dispense medication to comply with surgical standards,” said Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana.

Officials with Indiana Right to Life hope the attorney general will fight to keep the law on the books.

“We think it’s a very troubling ruling,” said Indiana Right to Life president Mike Fichter, who said he believes the drugs are dangerous. “We fear that this creates a potentially dangerous situation for women but we are hopeful that this will be reversed quickly.”

Attorney General Greg Zoeller now has 30 days to respond. He issued this statement:

“This new law reflects the policy judgment of Indiana legislators elected by our citizens.  The Court’s decision faulting the law for treating nonsurgical abortion clinics different from physicians’ offices must be thoroughly reviewed.   Because of the narrow ruling, we will consult with our clients and decide how next to proceed in the case.”

Cockrum believes the attorney general will decide to appeal.

“It might be silly to second guess, but there’s a real likelihood that’s what the Attorney General will decide,” Cockrum said.

“We’ll know in a month if (he) intends to appeal but if he does not I would assume that a permanent injunction would be handed down fairly quickly.”

Lawmakers who backed the legislation were unavailable for comment.