Judge Permanently Strikes Down 2018 Indiana Anti-Abortion Law

Jul 9, 2020

The Birch Bayh federal courthouse in downtown Indianapolis.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

A federal judge permanently struck down a 2018 Indiana anti-abortion law that required doctors to report a long list of so-called abortion complications.

The 2018 law requires any physician to report to the state “complications … arising from” abortions; a list of 25 conditions, including “psychological complications” like anxiety. It also imposes a criminal penalty for failing to do so.

The law was temporarily halted before it took effect. And Judge Richard Young now permanently struck it down. He said the law is too vague to enforce because it doesn’t guide doctors as to how to determine whether the listed complications were actually caused by the abortion, or to what degree abortion was a factor.

"Consider a physician who treats a woman who previously obtained an abortion and is experiencing depression," Young wrote, as an example. "Under the statute, the physician must decide whether the patient's depression arose from the abortion procedure. But the statute provides no guidance as to how the physician — who is not a licensed psychiatrist or clinical psychologist — must make that determination. It is not clear whether the physician must categorically rule out other possible causes of the depression before reporting, or if it is simply enough to say that the patient's depression could possibly be attributed to the abortion."

Young said the law could result in over-reporting complications to make abortion appear less safe than it really is.

The judge did OK a second provision that requires abortion clinics to be inspected yearly.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.