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Pro-abortion judicial activism in Indiana

A federal judge blocks commonsense, scientific pro-life protections

The Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis iStock.com/Michael Conroy (file)

Pro-abortion judicial activism in Indiana

A federal judge last week blocked a series of pro-life Indiana laws protecting women from unsupervised drug-induced abortions and requiring abortionists to give women scientific information about unborn life. The state on Wednesday initiated an appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which earlier this month ruled in favor of another pro-life Indiana law requiring abortionists to report complications to the state.

Indiana was one of several states this year that passed legislation requiring abortionists to see women in person, rather than over teleconference, before giving them abortion-inducing drugs. The legislature passed the law in reaction to the Biden Administration’s decision not to enforce Food and Drug Administration safety guidelines that require women to take the first pill of the abortion drug cocktail in the physical presence of an abortionist. The administration said the COVID-19 pandemic created a need for telemedicine abortions, but abortion advocates want to extend the rule past the pandemic.

The in-person requirement for drug-induced abortions protects women from taking the abortion pill too late or in cases that would mask undiagnosed ectopic pregnancies.

Leslie Wolbert in 2005 had an in-person consultation but was traumatized by the severe bleeding she experienced at home alone after taking abortion drugs. The Planned Parenthood she received the pills from did not help her when she called in concern. Pro-life groups called upon Wolbert and other women with similar stories earlier this year to testify in support of state legislation that would protect against the expansion of telemedicine abortions. She submitted her testimony for a House committee hearing in Montana, where lawmakers were considering a bill to solidify safety measures for the abortion pill.

In her ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Sarah Barker called Indiana’s reasons for banning telemedicine abortions “feeble at best, especially given the widespread use of telemedicine throughout Indiana as well as the overall safety of medication abortions.”

Barker’s ruling also blocked a 2011 law requiring abortionists in Indiana to tell women that life begins at fertilization and that babies could have the ability to feel pain starting at around 20 weeks of gestation. She said those requirements don’t “communicate truthful and nonmisleading information” even though scientific consensus clearly says life begins at conception. Despite the setbacks, Barker did uphold some pro-life provisions, including one mandating ultrasounds 18 hours before an abortion and a law requiring parental consent for minors to get abortions.

Indiana began the process of appealing the ruling the day after Barker released her decision. The state attorney general’s office also asked Barker to stay her ruling during the appeal, saying that in-person consultations allow medical professionals to identify medical concerns or help women who are being abused. “It cannot be the case that, as a matter of constitutional law, a state decision to forego the newest technological conveniences has the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking abortions,” the state said in its request. Meanwhile, Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter condemned the ruling in a statement, calling it “judicial activism at its absolute worst.”

Leah Savas

Leah reports on pro-life topics for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.



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