Judge Blocks Indiana Law Banning Abortion Based on a Diagnosis of Down Syndrome

By Lauretta Brown | July 1, 2016 | 6:21pm EDT
In this Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016 file photo, 3-month-old Esther Kamilly has her head measured by Brazilian and U.S. health workers from the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at her home in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, as part of a study on the Zika virus and the birth defect microcephaly. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Federal Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted a preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) Thursday on an Indiana law that was set to take effect Friday, which would have banned abortions on the basis of a diagnosis of Down Syndrome or other genetic abnormalities.

The Indiana law, signed by Gov. Mike Pence in March, said that “Indiana does not allow a fetus to be aborted solely because of the fetus's race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability.”

Pratt argued that “irreparable harm” would have occurred had the law taken effect as scheduled on Friday as the precedent established by Roe v. Wade “requires reaffirmance of Roe’s essential holding recognizing a woman’s right to choose an abortion before fetal viability.”

“Difficult moral and complicated health decisions are made by women whose pregnancies are affected by a prenatal fetal anomaly,” Pratt wrote. “Given the relatively short time frame in which women may elect to terminate a pregnancy, even a short disruption of a woman’s ability to do so could have significant consequences.”

“Absent an injunction, women would be informed that there could be legal consequences if they choose to terminate a pregnancy for these particular reasons, which could impair a woman’s ability to make her decision with ‘intimate views’ and ‘with infinite variations,’” Pratt argued. “These harms far outweigh the generalized harms faced by the State in the delay of the implementation of its democratically enacted law.”

Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit filed with the ACLU of Indiana in April argued that PPINK “on its own behalf and on behalf of its employees…strongly object to having to participate in informing women that Indiana law prohibits an abortion solely because of the fetus’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having a disability as they believe that they are being forced to inform patients of something that is clearly unconstitutional.”

Their lawsuit acknowledges that “PPINK is aware that some of its patients seek abortions for a reason banned by the Enrolled Act. PPINK has performed abortions for patients who have been referred to PPINK solely because genetic anomalies or potential genetic anomalies had been detected in the fetus and PPINK anticipates performing such abortions in the future.”

Pence responded to the news Thursday, telling 44News that his team will review the injunction.

“I’m pro-life, I will continue to stand for the sanctity of life, for the unborn especially those with disabilities and will continue to stand for the right and the appropriate and compassionate medical procedures for expectant mothers in Indiana,” he said.

“Today a federal judge denied the civil rights of unborn children, then proceeded to equate aborted children to common medical waste by blocking dignified disposal,” Mike Fichter, president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, said. “This ruling is an appalling human rights injustice and we urge the state to appeal.

The law blocked by the injunction includes a requirement that aborted or miscarried babies’ bodies be cremated or buried.

“Abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood turn to activist judges anytime they believe their lucrative businesses are threatened,” Fichter added. “It is no surprise that a judge appointed by Obama with a history of ruling against pro-life measures would block the Dignity for the Unborn law. Today’s decision is one small step in the legal process to uphold the Dignity for the Unborn law as the state protects the civil rights of unborn children.”

“This cruel law painted a grim picture for Indiana women with its blatant, unwelcome intrusion into private, independent decision making. HEA 1337 is a violation of the sacred doctor and patient relationship,” Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of PPINK, said in response to news of the injunction.

“Today’s decision shows Gov. Mike Pence that he cannot force his religious ideology on Hoosiers. It is further compelling recognition by the courts that legislation interfering with women’s reproductive rights will not be tolerated,” Cockrum concluded.

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