Federal Judge Blocks Controversial Abortion Ultrasound Law
A federal judge has blocked an Indiana mandate requiring pregnant women to submit to an ultrasound at least 18 hours prior to having an abortion, ruling that the mandate is likely unconstitutional and causes women, particularly low-income women, to face “clearly undue” burdens.
Feisty Judge Is No Stranger To Fighting Strict Abortion Laws
U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, in a ruling issued late Friday, has granted a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the waiting period for ultrasounds. Last July, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued the state, contending the law was unconstitutional and likely to prevent some women from having abortions, 7 News WSPA reports.
This rather draconian measure was pushed by abortion foes in an effort to make it more difficult for women to seek abortions, according to Reuters.
And Pratt, in her 53-page ruling, concurred.
“These burdens are clearly undue when weighted against the almost complete lack of evidence that the law furthers the State’s asserted justifications of promoting fetal life and women’s mental health outcomes,” she wrote.
There are only six Planned Parenthoods in Indiana that provide ultrasound services, and that could make traveling to these places costly for women who don’t live near them.
“For women faced with the already high costs of an abortion and a lack of means to afford them, the additional expenses of lengthy travel, lost wages and child care created by the new ultrasound law create a significant burden,” Pratt wrote.
In her decision, Pratt cited a study of 15,000 women in the Los Angeles area who used Planned Parenthood. The study found that 99 percent of women who hadn’t viewed ultrasounds went on to have abortions. The number wasn’t much lower for those who did see the footage — at 98.4 percent.
“Simply put, the State has not provided any convincing evidence that requiring an ultrasound to occur eighteen hours prior to an abortion rather than on the day of an abortion makes it any more likely that a woman will choose not to have an abortion,” she wrote.
The mandate, Pratt added, “likely creates an undue burden on women’s constitutional rights,” 7 News WSPA reports.
The ultrasound measure was part of a package of abortion restrictions signed into law by Vice President Mike Pence, Indiana’s governor at the time.
This law took effect on July 1, 2016, but even before that women still needed to have an ultrasound prior to having an abortion although the time frame wasn’t specified. When the ultrasound regulation was tightened, nine women were unable to have abortions due to the restricted ruling.
This isn’t the first time judge Pratt has gone up against Indiana’s strict rulings on abortion, and specifically, Mike Pence,notes The New York Daily News. The law also had a provision that would have banned abortions due to fetal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome.
Pratt also blocked a law that would have required aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated.
The ACLU lauded her efforts during a Monday press conference.
“This is a major victory for women in the state. It’s a major victory for Planned Parenthood,” said Ken Falk, the legal director for ACLU in Indiana.
In the U.S., 25 states have laws pertaining to ultrasound and abortion, but according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization, only three of these states require medical staff to display and describe these images.
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