(image courtesy of Planned Parenthood)
Supporters of the new law requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges don't believe that rulings against similar laws in other states will change anything in Indiana.
The state's law requiring doctors who perform abortions to document their admitting privileges at hospitals near the clinics took effect July 1. But over the last two weeks, similar laws have been put on hold by federal courts in two states. A federal appeals court panel in New Orleans last week ruled that the law in Mississippi was unconstitutional because it could have forced the state's only abortion clinic to close, shifting what it said was the constitutional rights of citizens to other states. On Monday, a U.S. District judge in Alabama issued a preliminary ruling against that state's admitting privileges law, saying it was a burden on obtaining abortions that ran counter to the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
Indiana is one of eleven states requiring abortion doctors to be able to admit patients to hospitals near the clinics in case of complications. Mike Fichter, president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, says the state's law has provisions that should protect it against court challenges. "The Indiana law allows abortion doctors to enter into an agreement with a local backup doctor who will appear for women in the event of an emergency. Alabama and Mississippi require the doctors themselves to have the admitting privileges," said Fichter.
Opponents of the law have not ruled out a court challenge in Indiana, though none has been filed yet. "(The law) caused an abortion center in Gary to shut down, and it caused abortion services in Allen County, specifically in Fort Wayne, to have been abandoned," said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. The clinics that closed were not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, Cockrum said, adding that their clinics that provide abortions were in compliance with the law. Planned Parenthood closed clinics in Bedford, Madison and Warsaw last month, but Cockrum says none of those provided abortion services.
Fichter says the closure of the Gary and Fort Wayne abortion clinics, as well as that of another clinic in Indianapolis, is proof that the law is working. "Women should have access to proper emergency care, and most of the doctors who do abortions in Indiana come to Indiana for one day, do abortions then travel to another state," Fichter said. But Cockrum doesn't believe admitting privelges laws have anything to do with the health of women. "Both the American Medical Association and the American College of OBGYNs oppose the laws, and they speak to the fact that (abortions) are a safe procedure more than 99-percent of the time, safer than many other procedures that lawmakers pay no attention to," Cockrum said.
Alabama's attorney general has said he will appeal the ruling against the law in his state. It isn't known whether Mississippi will appeal the judgment against it's law.