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Appeals Court Strikes Down Part Of 2016 Indiana Anti-Abortion Law

Pro-choice signs at a rally

Hoosiers protest the 2016 anti-abortion law at the Statehouse shortly after it took effect. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

A federal appeals court says an Indiana law that requires women to have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before an abortion is unconstitutional.

Indiana has required women to view an ultrasound before an abortion – unless they specifically reject it – since 2011. In 2016, the state-mandated the ultrasound take place at least 18 hours before – all in an effort to convince women not to have an abortion.

Planned Parenthood argued that rule meant women would have to make two separate trips of sometimes hundreds of miles for the procedure.

A federal judge sided with Planned Parenthood last year. And now the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling. The appellate court says the state’s only evidence the 18-hour rule has an impact was a single anecdote from one doctor. Instead, the court decided the law’s effect is to “place barriers” between a woman and her right to an abortion.

This is one of seven lawsuits to challenge an Indiana anti-abortion law since 2011. The state has lost, so far, in every one of them.

That includes other provisions of the 2016 law. That includes language that barred women from seeking abortions solely because of a fetus’s sex, race, or potential disability. A federal judge struck down that provision last year – and the 7th Circuit upheld that ruling earlier this year. In its opinion, the appellate court in that case said the Supreme Court is clear: a state cannot prohibit abortions before viability.

The Court of Appeals also invalidated a part of the 2016 law that required medical facilities to bury or cremate fetal remains. The state argued it has a right to ensure the dignified and humane disposal of human remains. But the court said the law does not recognize the fetus as a person.

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