Judge strikes down Indiana abortion complications report law

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge has struck down an Indiana law that aimed to require reports from medical providers to the state if they treat women for complications arising from abortions.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young’s ruling Wednesday that the law was unconstitutional came two years after Young granted a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect following its 2018 passage.

Young sided with Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky in its challenge to the law, which lists 26 physical or psychological conditions that could trigger the reporting requirement for doctors or clinics. The law made failure to do so a misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Young ruled that the law was “unconstitutionally vague,” writing that it gave doctors no clear guidance on questions such as how long after an abortion they would need to report a woman’s depression or trouble with a later pregnancy.

“The statute simply lacks any standard to guide physicians in determining whether a condition qualifies as an abortion complication for purposes of reporting,” Young wrote. “The indeterminacy of the statute’s requirements denies fair notice to physicians and invites arbitrary enforcement by prosecutors.”

The state attorney general’s office defended the law, telling Young that the reporting requirement “serves the public interest by collecting comprehensive data on the complications that may result from abortion and the frequency of those complications.”

Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill said in a statement Thursday that his office would “continue defending Indiana’s commonsense laws regulating the abortion industry.”

Hannah Brass Greer, chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the reporting requirement “has no basis in science and medicine.”

“The reporting requirements set by this law are another attempt by Indiana politicians to shame and stigmatize people seeking abortion services and to spread the myth that abortion is dangerous,” she said in a statement.

Young upheld another provision in the 2018 law that requires annual inspections of abortion clinics.

Planned Parenthood argued that the law would treat abortion clinics unfairly because hospitals and surgery centers would not face the same requirement.

But Young cited the state’s argument that such annual inspections might have uncovered misconduct earlier by Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, who operated abortion clinics in Fort Wayne, Gary and South Bend before his medical license was revoked in 2015. After Klopfer died last year, authorities found more than 2,400 preserved sets of fetal remains at his suburban Chicago properties.

Young ruled that Planned Parenthood’s equal protection rights weren’t violated because “the state has offered a rational reason for the decision to subject abortion clinics to stricter inspection requirements.”

The complications reporting requirement is just the latest abortion restriction passed by the Republican-led Legislature to get struck down in recent years.

A federal judge last year blocked the state’s ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure that the legislation called “dismemberment abortion.”

The U.S. Supreme Court last year also rejected Indiana’s appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked the state’s ban on abortion based on gender, race or disability. However, it upheld a portion of the 2016 law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains after an abortion.