Federal judge Sarah Evans Barker has issued a permanent injunction against several pro-life laws in Indiana, including a provision that required women to consult with a physician in person prior to obtaining chemical-abortion drugs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, abortion providers and abortion-rights activists began pushing to relax FDA safety regulations that had previously required doctors to prescribe the two drugs for a chemical abortion at an in-person appointment. After a long series of court fights — including a stop at the Supreme Court where the justices affirmed the permissibility of the FDA safety standards — the FDA under the Biden administration relaxed the policy and permitted women to begin obtaining chemical-abortion drugs via telemedicine appointments.
In response, a number of states have enacted their own safety requirements, prohibiting doctors from prescribing chemical-abortion drugs without first examining a patient in person. Unsurprisingly, abortion-rights groups have sued to block such policies, and in Indiana, they’ve scored a victory.
Citing prominent abortionist and abortion advocate Dr. Daniel Grossman, as well as abortion-advocacy group the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Judge Barker asserted that prescribing abortion pills via telemedicine is safe and would increase access to abortion for women who do not live near an abortion clinic. Barker again cited these sources, in addition to Planned Parenthood and other abortion-clinic officials, to establish that in-person examination is not necessary before determining whether to prescribe abortion pills and that such regulations impose a unique burden on low-income women.
The judge also blocked Indiana’s requirement that doctors inform women that human life begins at fertilization, once again citing Grossman, who called this statement not “truthful.”
“Plaintiffs again contend that this statement is at best misleading, conflating a religious or ideological view of when ‘life’ begins with one sounding in science,” the judge wrote. She went on to rule that the requirement was unconstitutional, declaring that “this mandatory disclosure does not communicate truthful and non-misleading information.”
While Barker also struck down a state provision requiring abortions later in pregnancy to be performed at a hospital, she did uphold the state’s ultrasound requirement, as well at its policy requiring that counseling be offered only by physicians or advanced clinicians.
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