U.S. Supreme Court tosses rulings blocking Indiana abortion curbs

by Reuters
Thursday, 2 July 2020 20:55 GMT

Anti abortion activists gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S., June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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The Supreme Court gave Indiana a second chance to revive a law imposing an ultrasound requirement when minors seek abortions

* Justices rebuff abortion clinic protest zone challenges

* Court leaves in place ruling in favor of South Bend clinic (Adds comment from ACLU and Indiana attorney general)

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON, July 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday gave Indiana a second chance to revive two restrictive abortion laws - one imposing an ultrasound requirement and the other expanding parental notification when minors seek abortions - by throwing out a lower court's rulings blocking them.

The justices directed the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider both cases in light of the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on Monday invalidating a Louisiana law that imposed restrictions on doctors who perform abortions.

Indiana will now get another shot at arguing for the legality of its two Republican-backed laws that the 7th Circuit had prevented from going into effect.

"We are heartened that the U.S. Supreme Court has granted us fresh opportunities to defend Indiana's commonsense laws safeguarding women's health and protecting, wherever possible, the lives of the unborn," Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, a Republican, said in a statement.

The ultrasound measure would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure at least 18 hours before terminating a pregnancy. The second law would require that parents be notified when a girl under 18 is seeking an abortion even in situations in which she has asked a court to provide consent instead of her parents, as was allowed under existing law.

The ultrasound measure was passed by the state legislature in 2016 and signed by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana's governor before Donald Trump selected him as his running mate.

Abortion rights proponents have said that for most women seeking an abortion, an ultrasound is not medically necessary, and that the requirement is an attempt by anti-abortion politicians to make obtaining an abortion more difficult.

"While we believe that the courts below will continue to see these laws for what they are - an unconstitutional attempt to push abortion further out of reach - the court's action is a stark reminder that the work to secure access to abortion for everyone is far from over," said Jennifer Dalven, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the challengers in both cases.

Republicans at the state level have pursued a variety of abortion restrictions.

In a third Indiana case on Thursday, the court left in place a ruling in favor of an abortion clinic seeking a license to open a clinic in South Bend. Indiana appealed after the 7th Circuit ruled that abortion provider Whole Woman's Health could get a provisional license while the litigation over the matter continued.

The Supreme Court on Thursday in two other abortion-related cases left in place policies in Chicago and Pennsylvania's capital Harrisburg that place limits on anti-abortion activists gathered outside clinics.

The Chicago policy bars activists from coming within eight feet (2.4 meters) of someone within 50 feet (15 meters) of any healthcare facility without their consent if they intend to protest, offer counseling or hand out leaflets. The Harrisburg measure bars people from congregating or demonstrating within 20 feet (6 meters) of a healthcare facility's entrance or exit.

In Monday's ruling on Louisiana's law, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal justices in the majority on the basis that the law was almost identical to a measure from Texas that the court struck down in 2016.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Will Dunham)