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Indiana attorney general asks US Supreme Court to hear abortion law challenge



A 2016 Indiana abortion law is being challenged by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky in two separate lawsuits, both of which have been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court could decide as early as Friday whether it'll hear the first case.

The law, House Bill 1337, was passed in 2016 and signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence. The two suits, both brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Planned Parenthood, challenge different parts of the law. 

Planned Parenthood is challenging three aspects of the law which they claim serve only to chip away at abortion access, according to a press release. 

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Planned Parenthood in both cases and ruled the challenged provisions of the law unconstitutional. The court also placed injunctions on the law, meaning it cannot go into effect. 

“It’s disappointing that the state of Indiana continues to defend these unconstitutional and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions,” said Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, in an October 2018 press release. 

The first suit challenges two parts of the law. One would require health centers to bury or cremate fetal remains from abortions or miscarriages, and the other would prohibit abortions sought because of the disability, race or sex of the fetus. 

“Nothing in the Constitution prohibits states from requiring health facilities to provide an element of basic human dignity in disposing of fetuses,” Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said in a press release. 

Hill asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review this suit in October 2018, and the court is still in the process of deciding whether to hear it.

Ken Falk, legal director with the ACLU of Indiana, said all nine Supreme Court justices will meet again Friday to discuss this case. They will either decide whether to hear the case or will continue to hold it for further discussion. That decision should be announced by Tuesday, Falk said. 

The state appealed the second suit Feb. 4, 2019, to the U.S. Supreme Court. This case challenges part of the Indiana law that, if allowed to take effect, would require women to receive an ultrasound 18 hours before receiving an abortion. 

“There is no medical justification for the ultrasound waiting period, and the requirement creates a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking to obtain an abortion,” Falk said in a press release. 

The Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade established that a woman has an absolute right to obtain an abortion before the fetus is viable. Since then, the court has allowed states to place some legal burdens on that right, Falk said. 

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