Federal judge hears arguments on Indiana abortion law that would only affect Lafayette clinic



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INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge is weighing arguments in the legal battle over an Indiana law critics say is aimed at shuttering a Planned Parenthood clinic that is the sole facility in the state to perform only drug-induced abortions.

U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson heard arguments Thursday from attorneys for the state and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana about the 2013 law.

The ACLU of Indiana sued the Indiana State Department of Health and the Tippecanoe County prosecutor in August 2013 over the law, arguing that it's unconstitutional and places an unjustifiable burden on one facility. Magnus-Stinson issued a temporary injunction last year blocking it from taking effect.

The legislation requires a Lafayette clinic that only performs nonsurgical abortion procedures through prescriptions of an abortion pill to either stop offering those medications or upgrade its offices to the same building standards as surgical abortion clinics.

ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk argued Thursday that the law is irrational and would force unnecessary costs for rooms that wouldn't be used, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1nW9GdX ).

Although the law doesn't require the Lafayette clinic — the only abortion clinic in that northern Indiana city — to have a doctor who can perform surgical abortions, Falk said it demands the facility to have the physical requirements for surgical procedures.

"The state's ground for imposing certain requirements is feeble at best," he said.

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher said Planned Parenthood has not provided any statistical evidence showing that a large number of women will lose access to abortion if the law takes effect. He said the law requires the clinic to be "minimally prepared" in case a woman who was prescribed the abortion pill comes back to the clinic with emergency complications.

"That's all this is about," Fisher said.

Falk said there's no evidence that any woman has ever returned to the Lafayette clinic for any complications.

Betty Cockrum, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the Indiana law is part of a nationwide effort to target abortion facilities.

"Their purpose is to erect barriers that would make it virtually impossible for facilities to provide abortion services," Cockrum said.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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