Wednesday, an Indiana federal judge found a 2013 state TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law unconstitutional. The law arbitrarily requires abortion clinics to meet the same building code requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASC). It also expanded the definition of an “abortion clinic” to include providers that only administer medication abortions, even if they offer no surgical abortion services.
The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence in spring 2013, targeted the only abortion clinic in Lafayette, Indiana. Because of the law, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Lafayette would have been subject to costly renovations despite the fact that it offers no surgical procedures. According to court documents, the Lafayette clinic saw more than 4,000 unduplicated patients in the year preceding the law’s enactment. During that time, there were 54 women seeking medication abortion services, but more than 10,000 prescriptions or dispensed orders for other medications, not limited to contraceptives. To avoid disruption of service, the Lafayette clinic sought a waiver from the Indiana Department of Health citing its status as a non-surgical provider, but was rejected in November 2013.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU) filed suit against the state immediately following the passage of the ASC requirement. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU also took issue with the state’s provision that the Indiana Department of Health could not “exempt an abortion clinic from…physical plant requirements,” which would have adversely impacted operations for Lafayette and other Planned Parenthood facilities.
In a 66-page order filed Thursday, Judge Jane E. Magnus -Stinson who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2010, sided with Planned Parenthood. Judge Magnus-Stinson ruled that the state presented “no rational basis for this unequal treatment.” This is the second time in just over a year that Judge Magnus-Stinson helped defend the Lafayette clinic from the threat of closure. In November 2013, she temporarily blocked portions of the law that would have shuttered the Lafayette clinic, again calling the statute fundamentally irrational.
“We are very pleased with this victory, which protects a woman’s constitutional right to reproductive health care,” said PPINK President and CEO Betty Cockrum. “Medically unnecessary laws such as this are designed to chip away at a woman’s right to access a safe, legal abortion. Countless medical professionals are on record that such laws do nothing to protect a woman’s health and safety, and we are thankful the court recognized the irrational basis of this law.”
Media Resources: United States District Court Southern District of Indiana Order 12/4/14; Feminist Newswire 12/2/13; ACLU of Indiana 12/4/14; Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky 12/4/14