INDIANAPOLIS: A federal judge has blocked an Indiana mandate forcing women to undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before having an abortion, ruling that the requirement is likely unconstitutional and creates "clearly undue" burdens on women, particularly low-income women.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt's ruling, issued Friday, grants a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the ultrasound waiting period. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana had sued the state last July, contending the mandate was unconstitutional and would prevent some women from getting abortions.
Pratt's ruling said the waiting period "creates significant financial and other burdens" on Planned Parenthood and its patients, particularly low-income women who face lengthy travel to one of only six Planned Parenthood health centres that can offer an informed-consent ultrasound appointment.
The judge, who heard arguments in the case in November, found that Indiana provided no compelling evidence that requiring an ultrasound at least the day before an abortion, rather than on the same day, "makes it any more likely that a woman will choose not to have an abortion."
"Given the lack of evidence that the new ultrasound law has the benefits asserted by the State, the law likely creates an undue burden on women's constitutional rights," she wrote.
The requirement that women undergo ultrasounds at least 18 hours before having an abortion had replaced a previous Indiana provision that required women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion but did not specify when that had to occur.
Planned Parenthood said in its lawsuit that under the earlier measure the group performed ultrasounds on women immediately prior to their abortions.
The ultrasound mandate is part of a wide-ranging abortion restrictions law that took effect July 1, 2016, a day after Pratt blocked the law's provision that would have banned abortions sought because of a fetus' genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome. The judge also blocked a provision requiring that aborted fetuses be buried or cremated.
Then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is now vice president, signed the legislation into law in March 2016.
Ali Slocum, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the group had no immediate comment on Pratt's ruling ahead of a Monday afternoon news conference the group will hold with the ACLU of Indiana.
The Indiana Attorney General's office was preparing a statement on the ruling, said spokesman Corey Elliot.