A federal judge has allowed an Indiana law largely banning a second-trimester abortion procedure to come into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Judge Sarah Evans Barker’s order signed Thursday lifted the injunction she issued in 2019 blocking the law against dilation and evacuation abortions.
The law took effect immediately, according to the state attorney general’s office, and is the first toughening of Indiana’s anti-abortion laws since the Supreme Court ruling. Indiana could have more sweeping abortion restrictions by next month as the Republican-dominated legislature is due to begin a special legislative session on July 25.
Barker granted a request from the Indiana Attorney General’s office to lift its order, writing that the Supreme Court’s decision in June reversing the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide removed the “essential assets” for its analysis.
The Republican-backed legislation prohibits doctors from performing what it calls “dismemberment abortion” except to prevent a serious health risk or save the woman’s life. A doctor who breaks the law could face a felony charge, which carries a sentence of up to six years in prison.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana acknowledged in court papers last week that the Supreme Court ruling condemned the injunction it had obtained for Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis gynecologist who performs the procedure.
Bernard described women undergoing the procedure as having “wanted pregnancies” while facing serious medical complications.
Bernard said in an interview that the exception in the law allowing the procedure for medically necessary reasons was not enough protection for doctors.
“What percentage chance of death counts?” Bernard said. “Medicine is not so black and white.
The procedure used in the second trimester of pregnancy accounted for 27 abortions, or 0.35%, of those performed in Indiana in 2017, the last year an annual report on abortions from the Indiana Department of Health included a specific number of procedures. Current state law generally prohibits abortions after 13 weeks of pregnancy, with 1.2% of the 8,414 reported abortions in Indiana last year occurring after that time.
Republican State Attorney General Todd Rokita hailed the lifting of the injunction as “an exciting victory in our war to defend unborn children and protect women.”
Barker, who was appointed as a judge by President Ronald Reagan, refused to lift a separate injunction against a 2017 Indiana law that would require parents to be told if a court allows a girl under 18 to be abort without parental consent. Barker cited procedural reasons, pointing out that the challenge to that law was pending in the Chicago 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The attorney general’s office on Friday asked the appeals court to overturn the injunction.
Republican legislative leaders have said they will consider additional restrictions on abortion in the next special session, but have not yet released details on whether they will seek a full ban or allow exceptions, such as in cases of rape, incest or to protect the woman’s life.