Indiana’s new abortion law is both on trend with the rest of the country and totally distinctive. In March, the state legislature passed a law that primarily does two things: First, it prohibits abortions at any stage that are sought on the basis of the fetus’s sex, race, or other identity factors, or because of potential genetic abnormalities. Second, it requires that fetal remains are buried or cremated, rather than disposed as medical waste.
Planned Parenthood, the major abortion provider in the state, challenged the law, along with the American Civil Liberties Union. On Thursday, a district-court judge, Tanya Walton Pratt, blocked the law from going into effect, which was set to happen on July 1. Her decision suggests that Planned Parenthood will eventually succeed in its challenge to the law, part of a recent trend of federal courts striking down laws that seek to regulate abortion procedures and target abortion providers. If her predictions are correct, the courts will get to sidestep significant bioethical questions in considering this case, essentially because Indiana’s law is written too vaguely. But that doesn’t mean the questions are going away.
The main problem with HEA 1337, as the law is known, is that it seeks to limit the reasons why a woman could get an abortion at any time during her pregnancy, including before the fetus is viable. As Carol Sanger, a professor at Columbia Law School, pointed out during an interview in April, the United States is different from some other countries that permit abortions, including the U.K.: Women are not required to give their reasons for seeking an abortion. That means this law would be difficult to enforce—doctors might only discover that a woman wants to abort her girl or her Down Syndrome baby if it comes up in conversation, for example.