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Planned Parenthood Asks Judge To Halt Parts Of New Abortion Law

Birch Bayh Federal Building (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Photo: Lauren Chapman/IPB News

A federal judge heard arguments Tuesday over recent abortion legislation.

Planned Parenthood went to federal court to ask a judge to halt portions of Indiana’s new anti-abortion law before it takes effect.

And the judge seemed skeptical of some of the state’s arguments for upholding broad portions of the legislation passed this year.

Indiana’s new abortion law requires parents show “some evidence” – beyond an ID – they’re a child’s legal parent or guardian to give consent for an abortion. Planned Parenthood argues the language is too vague. And federal judge Sarah Evans Barker seemed to agree, saying the “phraseology defies a clear stab” at what the statute requires.

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher argued a birth certificate would be, in his words, “a slam dunk.” But Barker questioned what would happen if no birth certificate were available. And Fisher indicated, in those cases, the abortion wouldn’t be performed.

Another provision bars anyone from helping a pregnant minor get an abortion without consent. Planned Parenthood argues that infringes on free speech rights. Fisher says the statute regulates professional conduct.

But Judge Barker noted it applies to more than physicians and medical staff, remarking to Fisher, “Whoa, that’s a little broad.”

The other provision Planned Parenthood seeks to halt deals with what’s called “parental notification.”

An underage girl can go to court to get consent for an abortion if she can’t get consent from her parents. A new law requires a judge to decide whether the girl’s parents are notified of that hearing after the judge decides whether to grant the consent.

ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk, representing Planned Parenthood, says the statute creates a substantial obstacle to young women who consider abortion.

“And what our evidence demonstrates is in that situation, young women will simply not go forward with the abortion [and] may seek an illegal abortion, may have an unwanted pregnancy,” Falk says.

But Fisher says Falk’s “evidence” is just hypotheses. Fisher’s essential argument is that the law must take effect first to find out whether there’s any actual harm caused.

Barker indicated she’ll make a decision before the law takes effect July 1.

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