INDIANA (BP) — A federal judge on June 30 blocked an Indiana law banning abortions in cases when a baby is diagnosed before birth with a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome. The Indiana law, one of only two of its kind in the United States, was set to go into effect July 1.
In March, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a statute also designed to outlaw sex-selection abortions and the buying and selling of fetal tissue. In addition, the law would require that the bodies of aborted or miscarried babies be treated in a dignified manner through cremation or burial rather than be disposed of in large containers with other “infectious waste.”
Indiana Right to Life president Mike Fichter said he wasn’t surprised U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, whom President Barack Obama appointed in 2010, granted the preliminary injunction.
“It wasn’t entirely unexpected,” Fichter told me, “but still it’s very disappointing.” Fichter said the judge’s decision denies civil rights to unborn children and equates aborted children with “medical garbage.”
Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher had argued before Pratt on June 14 that the state has an interest in “preventing discrimination” against preborn children. Although Fichter said he had not yet spoken with Fisher after Pratt’s decision, he did anticipate Indiana would appeal the ruling. By making it a civil rights issue, Fichter says he believes the case could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
On the April 3 telecast of NBC’s Meet the Press, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton seemed to acknowledge unborn children as a class of people without legal protections.
“The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights,” Clinton told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU) had challenged the law on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. The ACLU of Indiana did not return calls requesting a comment, but said in a statement that “the ACLU stands firmly against discrimination in all forms.”
Pence’s office released a statement saying he was disappointed by the ruling, but he “will continue to stand for the sanctity of human life at all stages.” John Gregg, the governor’s Democratic opponent in this year’s election, applauded the injunction.
“As someone who is personally pro-life, I believe this was an unnecessary, irresponsible, poorly thought-out law and am pleased it won’t be going into effect,” Gregg said in a statement.
In 1974, fewer than 50 American women aborted their Down syndrome babies, but by 2000 that number had grown to about 3,200. Studies published in 1999 and 2006 found that 90 to 92 percent of prenatally diagnosed cases of Down syndrome end in abortion. Non-invasive technology available since 2011 now allows for a Down syndrome diagnosis as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy. Although not 100 percent accurate, the new test has likely further reduced the number of Down syndrome children who are born.