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Abortion care providers challenge Indiana's near-total abortion ban

The sign for a clinic that provides abortions in South Bend, Indiana. The sign, along the side of a road, is purple text on a white background. It reads "Whole Woman's Health of South Bend. A Whole Woman's Health Alliance Clinic. Changing the world, one woman at a time. www.wholewomanshealth.com"
Courtesy of Whole Woman's Health Alliance
Indiana abortion care providers are trying to halt the state's near-total abortion ban from taking effect by challenging it in state court. The ban would force all clinics to stop providing abortion care.

Indiana abortion care providers are trying to stop the state’s near-total abortion ban from taking effect.

A lawsuit filed in state court Tuesday that says the ban violates the Indiana Constitution.

Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai‘i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky; Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, Women's Med Group Professional Corporation and All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center are Indiana’s primary providers of abortion care. They’ll be forced to stop providing that care Sept. 15, when the state’s abortion ban is set to take effect.

READ MORE: Why weren’t abortion restrictions decided by a ballot question in Indiana?

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They’re now challenging the ban in court. The law limits abortion to only hospitals and surgical centers owned by hospitals – and specifically bans abortion clinics. The health care organizations argue that’s unlawful discrimination under the state constitution.

They also argue that an exception in the bill – allowing abortions when the serious health or life of the pregnant person is at risk – is unconstitutionally vague. They allege a conflict about when that exception can be used. One provision suggests it’s at any time during pregnancy; another suggests it’s limited to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

ACLU of Indiana is helping lead the lawsuit. In a statement, Legal Director Ken Falk said the Indiana Constitution has always protected a right to privacy.

"Implicit in this right, is the right for a woman to make medical decisions regarding her own reproductive health," Falk said. "This ban on abortion will force Hoosiers to carry pregnancies against their will, leading to life-altering consequences and serious health risks."

But Indiana Right to Life, one of the state's most influential anti-abortion groups, said it's confident the law will stand.

"Not only is there no right to an abortion in the Indiana Constitution, it actually states life is one of our inalienable rights," said Mike Fichter, Indiana Right to Life CEO.

The health care providers want the court to at least temporarily halt the law before it takes effect.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.