INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's push to place tougher restrictions on a Lafayette Planned Parenthood clinic that provides abortions only by using drugs, not surgery, could spark a new court fight under a revised law set to take effect in July.
The Republican-dominated Legislature this spring approved changes to a blocked 2013 law that would have required the Lafayette clinic to meet the same standards as surgical abortion clinics by adding a recovery room and surgical equipment and making other upgrades even though it doesn't perform surgical abortions.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana challenged the 2013 law on behalf of Planned Parenthood, saying it was unfair and would impose unnecessary costs on the clinic. U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson blocked the law, ruling it violated equal protection rights since the law would have allowed doctors' offices to continue providing the same medications.
The revised law passed this year makes changes in response to the judge's ruling by deleting the doctors' offices exemptions and, instead, has the clinic regulations apply to any health care provider who provides abortion pills five or more times a year.
State Department of Health records, however, show that none of the 1,635 non-surgical abortions in Indiana during 2013 were reported outside clinics or hospitals.
Republican state Sen. Mark Messmer of Jasper, who sponsored the new bill, told legislative committees that by dropping references to doctors' offices from the law, the state would be able to seek an end to the judge's injunction against the new requirements.
Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said the office is reviewing whether to ask the judge to reconsider her injunction.
The state attorney general's office argued in federal court that the 2013 law was appropriate because it required the clinic to be "minimally prepared" in case a woman who was prescribed the abortion pill returned with emergency complications.
While three other Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana offer both procedures, the organization would have to decide whether to remodel the Lafayette clinic or to stop offering the abortion pill there.
"I don't think it's any more rational on July 1st of this year to impose surgical requirements on the Lafayette clinic than it was last year," said Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana's legal director. "We will continue to maintain our argument that if surgical requirements are imposed, then that is improper."
Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said he hopes the attorney general's office will quickly go to court and seek enforcement of the revised law since he believes legislators addressed the judge's ruling.
"They have now very clearly defined an abortion clinic in the state," Fichter said. "That really removed the entire basis for the federal judge's injunction against that law to start with."
Most states already have the same clinic regulations for those providing medical or surgical abortions, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.