By Jack Phillips
A U.S. Court of Appeals issued a ruling allowing Indiana to continue enforcing laws that restrict abortions, including telemedicine consultations between doctors and women seeking the procedure.
Reversing an order handed down by District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker last month, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel, in a 2–1 ruling Wednesday, granted Indiana the right to enforce its laws while the court considers a full appeal of the case.
“Plaintiffs contend, and the district court found, that developments in videoconferencing make it possible to dispense with in-person meetings, that improvements in medicine make the use of hospitals or surgical centers unnecessary, and that nurses are competent to approve and monitor medication-induced abortions,” the appeals court ruling said. “The district court concluded that these findings permit it to depart from the holdings of earlier cases. Yet the Supreme Court insists that it alone has the authority to modify its precedents.”
Barker had ruled that the state didn’t have the authority to restrict women’s usage of virtual services to consult with a doctor, requiring second-trimester abortions to only be performed in hospitals or specific surgical centers, and prohibiting anyone except for a doctor from performing chemical abortions, among other provisions.
But the appeals court said that “all of the contested provisions have been in force for years,” adding that “a stay would preserve the status quo pending appellate resolution. And Indiana has made the ‘strong showing’ on the merits necessary to receive a stay.”
The Indiana Attorney General’s office appealed and said her decision claiming “the Constitution does not require state legislatures constantly to update state statutes to keep up with ever-advancing technologies just because those technologies may make abortion more convenient.”
On Wednesday, Attorney General Todd Rokita praised the 7th Circuit Court’s decision.
“We would expect our commonsense laws to be upheld as the appeal continues,” Rokita, a Republican, said in a statement. “Protecting the culture of life is the top priority of my office, and we will continue fighting for every life alongside our legislative partners.”
Rokita added that his office will continue to “defend these laws and sustain a culture of life in Indiana.”
Indiana can continue to enforce the laws until the judges render their final decision in the case.
Rupali Sharma, a lawyer for Whole Woman’s Health, a plaintiff in the case, told The Associated Press that it is reviewing the court’s decision, saying that all legal options are under consideration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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