Yesterday a federal judge deemed an Indiana law that required medical providers to report to the state complications their patients experienced after an abortion unconstitutional. The lawsuit was brought against Indiana by the ACLU of Indiana on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

Judge Richard Young stated in his opinion that the law was “unconstitutionally vague” and did not specify how medical providers would be able to determine the complications their patients were experiencing resulted from their abortions. Judge Young upheld another portion of the law which requires all abortion clinics to be inspected annually by the state.

The original 2018 law required medical providers to report “any adverse physical or psychological condition arising from the induction or performance of an abortion.” Those who did not comply faced up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. After a judge ruled the initial law was too vague, it was amended to include a list of 26 complications that were required to be reported. These included sleep disorders, anxiety, and rare complications such as cardiac arrest.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU argued that the new law included complications that were rare and “more likely to occur after other medical procedures.” They also argued that the new law was too vague, as it remained unclear “the extent to which a complication must be caused by the abortion itself” in order for it to necessitate reporting, as well as required “a degree of certainty as to causation that does not exist.”

Indiana’s Attorney General defended the law by arguing that mandated reporting “serves the public interest by collecting comprehensive data on the complications that may result from abortion and the frequency of those complications.”

Judge Young struck down the mandated reporting portion of the law and wrote that “the statue simply lacks any standard to guide physicians in determining whether a condition qualifies as an abortion complication for the purposes of reporting…The result, of course, is that physicians and other providers may overreport the enumerated complications, making abortion appear less safe than it really is.”

Judge Young did uphold the portion of the law which requires abortion clinics to be inspected annually, even though these inspections are not required for hospitals and surgery centers that perform abortions. Judge Young wrote that the “requirement furthers the State’s compelling interest in protecting women’s health and fetal life.”

In a statement, the chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Hannah Brass Greer, argued that the mandated reporting requirements were “another attempt by Indiana politicians to shame and stigmatize people seeking abortion services and … spread the myth that abortion is dangerous.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, over 20 states have similar laws that mandate abortion complication reporting. It is unclear how these laws will be affected by the ruling.

Sources: Indianapolis Star 7/9/20; Associated Press 6/28/18; ABC News 7/9/20; United States District Court Southern District of Indiana 7/8/20; ACLU Indiana 7/8/20; Associated Press 3/7/18

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