MONROE COUNTY, Ind. — Officials with the Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai‘i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky and other plaintiffs recently filed a complaint in Monroe County which continues to challenge Senate Enrolled Act. No. 1, a near-total abortion ban that went into effect in August.
According to previous reports, SEA 1 was passed by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in August 2022, a bill that prohibited all abortions throughout Indiana except for certain situations. Since that bill was passed, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the ban did not violate the state constitution, overturning a previous preliminary injunction that blocked the implementation of the bill.
This new complaint, filed on Thursday in Monroe County by Planned Parenthood, Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, All-Options Inc. and Amy Caldwell, M.D., is asking for relief from SEA 1, highlighting that the bill’s hospital requirement prevents the plaintiffs from providing abortion care at all. The complaint also said that the bill’s health or life exception is “unconstitutionally narrow.”
The plaintiffs brought forward this lawsuit against:
- Members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana
- Hendricks County Prosecutor
- Lake County Prosecutor
- Marion County Prosecutor
- Monroe County Prosecutor
- Tippecanoe County Prosecutor
- Warrick County Prosecutor
The bill, according to previous reports, offers three exceptions in which abortion is allowed, according to previous reports. This includes:
- When reasonable medical judgment dictates that performing the abortion is necessary to prevent death or a serious risk of substantial of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, or the “health or life exception.”
- When the pregnant person recieves a diagnosis of a lethal fetal anomaly
- When the pregnant person is a victim of rape or incest.
If an abortion is performed outside these circumstances, it would result in criminal penalties for the physicians and could cause them to have their medical licenses revoked. The bill also eliminates licensed abortion clinics, requiring abortion care to only occur in a hospital or an ambulatory outpatient surgical center.
The plaintiffs argue that through these two specific portions of the bill “severely limits access to abortion care, prohibiting nearly all pregnant Hoosiers from accessing care in Indiana.”
“(The bill) virtually eliminates abortion access across the state and deprives patients of their constitutional right to obtain abortions to protect them from serious health risks,” the complaint reads. “Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of themselves and their staff, their abortion patients and their clients to prevent the deprivation of their rights under the Indiana Constitution.”
The plaintiffs claim that the health or life exception, as well as the hospital requirement, violate article 1, section 1 of the Indiana Constitution. That portion of the constitution says that “all people are created equal (and) that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights,” one that the plaintiffs stress is a right to an abortion.
In the case of the health or life exception, the plaintiffs argue that this exception causes uncertainty because of its “confusing definition of serious health risk.” The “threats” that the bill has against physicians who perform abortions also prevent them from providing the procedures necessary to protect their patients’ lives and health.
In relation to the hospital requirement, the plaintiffs said it violates Article 1, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution by making abortion care “prohibitively expensive,” by creating barriers of cost and travel for pregnant Hoosiers. The complaint claims that facilities that provide abortions will be limited to hospitals concentrated in and around Indianapolis, forcing other Indiana residents to have to travel for care.
Through this new complaint, the plaintiffs are asking a Monroe County Judge to:
- Issue a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoin enforcement, operation and execution of the bill’s definition of “serious health risk”
- Issue a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the enforcement, operation and execution of the hospital requirement so clinics can provide abortions in the limited circumstances in which abortions are legal in Indiana
- Issue an order, judgment and/or writ declaring that the bill’s health or life exception and hospital requirement are unconstitutional because they would prevent physicians “in their reasonable medical judgment from performing abortions” in specific circumstances.
“The fight isn’t over in Indiana. Today, we are asking the trial court to protect Hoosiers’ health and limit the scope of the state’s unconstitutional abortion ban,” a statement from the plaintiffs read. “We are hopeful that the court will grant our request, ensuring that Hoosiers in the most vulnerable circumstances can still access care in their state. While this would be a critical step forward for reproductive freedom, it would not restore access for most people seeking abortion in Indiana. We will continue working to support Hoosiers in getting abortions — and we will continue to fight until access is fully restored.”