Federal judge hears Planned Parenthood's case against new abortion law

Judge Pratt promises ruling before HEA 1337 takes effect July 1


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On June 14, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt heard the long awaited case of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky versus the State Department of Health and other representing county entities.

Planned Parenthood is suing the state for the passage of HEA1337, a bill that sets strict limitations on the ability to obtain an abortion, and also on the disposal methods of fetal tissue. Deemed unconstitutional by the ACLU, this bill has been controversial for seemingly stripping away a woman’s right to privacy and choice.

RELATED: Our comprehensive coverage of HEA 1337

On behalf of Planned Parenthood, Ken Falk of the ACLU presented his argument first. In his opening statement, he concluded that HEA1337 violates the central holding of Roe. V. Wade, the holding that women have the fundamental right to an abortion without state interference and imposition of state legislation. In short, a state does not have the right to restrict access to abortion. Furthermore, a woman has the inherent right to privacy without the state’s imposition on that privacy, which is fundamentally what HEA1337 does. This bill, argued Falk, takes away any feasibility of privacy for a woman during a very difficult decision in her life.

This bill also violates the First Amendment, according to the ACLU. It forces Planned Parenthood to become a mouthpiece for the state, with rules and regulations that they don’t agree with. With regards to the disposal of fetal tissues, Planned Parenthood now must dispose of a surgical byproduct as if it were the same as a human life. Planned Parenthood also must now spend more money to dispose of this surgical byproduct, in turn making its services more expensive and less attainable for patients. Since a fetus is not a person, argued the ACLU, the potential of human life is no longer present after abortion, when fetal embryonic tissue is present. Therefore, fetal remains should not be treated the same as, say, the disposal of a human body would be.

Overall, the ACLU argued that this bill has three major faults:
• Denies the basic constitutional right to privacy, free speech and free expression
• Violates the central holding of Roe versus Wade
• Treats fetal tissue as human life, rather than surgical byproduct

In response to the ACLU, Attorney General Tom Fisher argued that major technological and medical advancements have been made since Roe versus Wade that allow the general public to learn more about the lives of fetuses early on in a pregnancy; things such as gender and potential disability. In response to this, Judge Pratt questioned why federal courts haven’t yet changed their rulings about abortion if advancements in technology were so important.

RELATED: A letter on HEA 1337

Fisher’s main argument for the state was that HEA1337’s main interest is in outlawing discrimination. It aims to outlaw discrimination of unborn fetuses. (This is the same state that passed RFRA and also attempted to ban Syrian refugees from the state.) Fisher claimed that showing respect for life is extends to showing respect for human life in death, since the state considers fetal tissue to be a once-living organism. Judge Pratt questioned whether or not treating fetal remains the same as human remains is in the best interest of the state.

Overall, the state argued that this bill aims to do three things:
• Treat human life with respect and dignity, in regards to the disposal of fetal tissue
• Outlaw discrimination against unborn fetuses
• Ensure that women won’t find themselves in a situation where the restrictions of HEA1337 apply to them

Judge Pratt says she will “definitely have a ruling before July 1”, which is the date that HEA1337 becomes law.


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