3 county prosecutors will not defend Indiana’s latest abortion requirements
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The prosecutors in Marion, Monroe and Lake counties announced Wednesday that they will not defend against or otherwise contest a lawsuit recently filed by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) challenging SEA 340, an abortion-related bill passed this year.
The bill, signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in March, requires medical providers to report abortion complications like infections, blood clots, hemorrhaging and mental health issues.
Supporters say it will ensure abortions are provided safely. But opponents maintain it will further stigmatize abortions, which have lower complication rates than many other procedures.
PPINK’s lawsuit, filed last week, claims the bill is unconstitutional because it violates due process and equal protection by singling out Planned Parenthood clinics for vague yet invasive reporting requirements. Physicians who fail to submit such reports would face criminal penalties and possible jail time.
“By attaching criminal penalties to this legislation, the law would require our offices and law enforcement agencies to devote already limited resources to now policing health care providers,” said Marion County Terry Curry, who is named in the suit, along with prosecutors Chris Gaal and Bernard Carter, based on the location of Planned Parenthood clinics within their jurisdictions.
Curry says nearly $300,000 has been paid by the state to the ACLU in legal fees for lawsuits challenging prior abortion legislation that was found to be unconstitutional.
“We are tired of being drawn into the annual act of legislative futility to pass abortion-related bills, which inevitably results in lawsuits at taxpayer expense,” said Curry.
The three prosecutors have directed the Indiana Attorney General to concede the merits of the lawsuit on their behalf.
“Our priority is to protect the public safety of our local communities with limited time and scarce public resources,” said Gaal. “Our decision to concede the merits of the suit as defendants is not based on our personal beliefs, it is about refusing to participate in a futile legal battle that is a distraction from our important duties.”
“When we took office we swore a duty to uphold both the federal and state constitutions, and this law appears just as unconstitutional as the last few attempts to impose such restrictions,” said Carter. “Because the law does not go into effect until July, there should be ample time for the federal court to resolve the issues.”
The Indiana State Department of Health and Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, the other state agencies named as defendants, will remain as parties in the case.
The president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life issued the following statement regarding the prosecutors’ decision:
These Democrat county prosecutors are thumbing their nose at the legislative process and ignoring the legitimate health risks for women following an abortion. We believe SEA 340 will be found constitutional and these county prosecutors are doing a disservice to their constituents by siding with the Planned Parenthood abortion clinics operating in their counties. These prosecutors are playing politics with the lives of women injured by botched abortions.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill chastised the prosecutors for their statement, issuing this response:
“The Marion County, Monroe County and Lake County prosecutors have issued a statement apparently stating they will not defend the state in a lawsuit in which they have been named as defendants – namely, the recent filing of a constitutional challenge of the Indiana law requiring practitioners to report complications resulting from abortions.
“To their credit, my friends and former colleagues are right. They will not defend the state. I will.
“While prosecutors Curry, Gaul and Carter share the opinion that this case should not be defended, they also share no authority to make that call. Mr. Curry’s ‘directive’ to me to concede the constitutionality of an Indiana statute has zero force or effect.
“I am well aware of the proper role of the prosecuting attorney as well as my responsibilities as Attorney General, and part of my responsibility is the defense of the constitutionality of legislative acts of the Indiana General Assembly that have been signed into law by the Governor.
“The protestations of Mr. Curry and the other prosecutors regarding their being drawn into this type of litigation might find a more sympathetic ear with the plaintiff, the ACLU, which chose these three ‘defendants’ who, if they had the authority, would concede the case. How convenient and disingenuous.
“If these three prosecutors want out of this case, then they can ask their friends at the ACLU to dismiss them out. As for the defense of the State of Indiana and the decisions on how to proceed in this case, I will make that call.”