INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 7, 2016) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) to stop Indiana’s new abortion law.
The lawsuit was filed against the Indiana State Department of Health, prosecutors of several counties and the state medical licensing board.
Gov. Mike Pence signed HEA 1337 into law two weeks ago. The law prevents women from aborting a fetus due to Down syndrome or other genetic abnormalities. The measure also prohibits abortions sought on the basis of gender or race. Indiana is the second state in the nation to enact such a law.
The ACLU of Indiana and PPINK claim the law violates due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment as well as First Amendment rights of free speech.
“This statute does something that the United States Supreme Court has said repeatedly cannot be done," said Ken Falk with the ACLU of Indiana. "It is an attempt by the state of Indiana to interfere with and actually prohibit a woman’s right to determine whether or not to have an abortion. That is a right that the United States Supreme Court has stressed that a woman absolutely has and cannot be prohibited.”
“The Supreme Court has said that there cannot be an undue burden placed on a woman’s right to an abortion. That’s the current law. This is not an undue burden, this is an absolute prohibition, you just can’t do that,” said Falk.
Falk called it a "gross interference with a fundamental constitutional right of privacy that all women have.”
Betty Cockrum, President and CEO of PPINK, lashed out at Gov. Pence.
"The leading experts on reproductive healthcare in this country, which is the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, sent a letter to Gov. Pence asking him very strongly to veto the legislation," said Cockrum. "And of course that fell on deaf ears because here in Indiana, we have a governor who finds his own personal views on these things and his own personal ideology more important than good public health policy and constitutional behavior.”
Cockrum said the law was about "making abortion go away entirely."
"It has nothing to do with doing better for Hoosier families. It has nothing to do with serving women and making sure that they have the healthcare that they need,” said Cockrum.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the abortion law unconstitutional and issue an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.
"All Hoosiers have legal access to the courts, but I believe in the constitutionality of the law," Pence said Thursday when asked about the lawsuit.
The governor, who described himself as pro-life, said he respects that people have different and strong opinions on the subject.
"This is comprehensive pro-life legislation that expands the information that expectant mothers receive and also provides additional protections for the unborn. I was pleased to sign it," said Pence.
"I have every confidence in the constitutionality of this law," the governor said at a separate event Thursday. "We will work with the Attorney General to defend the law that enhances information expectant mothers receive and enhances protection for the unborn.”
The new law gained national attention following a social media campaign called "Periods for Pence." The group asks women to call the governor's office to discuss their menstrual cycles to protest the law.
Read the full lawsuit here.