State’s abortion obsession wastes scarce dollars

A federal appeals court recently struck down Indiana’s abortion ban, a 2016 law prohibiting a woman from terminating her pregnancy because of the gender, race or disability of the fetus.

Then another lawsuit was filed challenging an Indiana law set to take effect July 1 — this one requiring physicians who treat women for a physical or psychological condition connected in any way to a past abortion to report detailed patient information to the state. Don’t be surprised when it is struck down, as well.

The Indiana General Assembly’s obsession with abortion restrictions is responsible for a long and costly collection of unsuccessful court battles. The state has paid nearly $3 million in legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana since 2011, with the costs still rising.

As voters weigh campaign pledges before the May and November elections, they should consider candidates’ willingness to risk more tax dollars on legislation that will inevitably land before the courts. The time and resources spent in pursuit of unconstitutional aims could be directed toward other goals, such as ensuring Indiana children are safe from abuse and neglect.

“I think that’s part of the unfortunate thing with all of the lawsuits is we end up spending a lot of time debating policies that have really already been decided some 40 years ago, when we really could be focusing on helping Hoosier families by focusing on how to prevent unintended pregnancies,” said Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Indiana’s abortion ban last week.

Three Republican-appointed judges agreed House Enrolled Act 1337 violated well-established legal precedent that a woman may terminate her pregnancy prior to viability for any reason. They rejected the state’s argument that because of advances in genetic screening, Indiana has an interest in prohibiting discrimination against fetuses with disabilities.

The issue is settled, the judges ruled.

“We cannot reweigh a woman’s privacy right against the state’s interest,” they wrote. “The Supreme Court has been clear: the state may inform a woman’s decision before viability, but it cannot prohibit it.”

Senate Enrolled Act 340 takes a different approach. In announcing the new lawsuit this week, Gillespie called the measure “yet another attempt by politicians to shame and stigmatize pregnant Hoosiers and spread the myth that abortion is dangerous.”

Testifying against the legislation in March, former state health commissioner Richard Feldman warned it would erect barriers in the patient-doctor relationship. The legislative chairman of the Indiana Association of Family Physicians said the organization opposed the proposal because of the “onerous” compliance burden it would place on doctors, and the “intrusive” questions they would be required to ask female patients.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which filed the suit on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, argues that the abortion complications reporting requirement creates “vague and uncertain standards” that are written so broadly “as to be meaningless.”

While SB 340 sailed through the process, time ran out before some necessary legislation was approved. Now Hoosiers are left with the bill for a special session, a still-growing legal tab and serious problems in child protective services, wage growth and more.

When will lawmakers’ priorities change?