Attorney General Curtis Hill has asked a federal district court to reject challenges brought by the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance (WWHA) and affiliated co-plaintiffs against Indiana laws designed to protect women seeking abortions.
“Unsurprisingly,” Attorney General Hill said, “there are not among the plaintiffs any pregnant women seeking to invalidate such safeguards. Plaintiffs attack nearly every Indiana abortion statute and regulation — from licensing to physical examination — including some that do not even affect them. And while plaintiffs invoke the rights of patients, their interests as abortion providers diverge from pregnant women.”
WWHA operates a South Bend clinic that provides medication abortions, in which patients are provided medications that cause fetal death and then cause the patients to expel the deceased fetuses after they leave the clinic.
Key arguments put forward by Attorney General Hill challenge the plaintiffs’ standing to sue, and Hill laments that WWHA treats as trivial the very real threats to women’s mental and physical health inherent in abortion procedures. In documents filed as part of Indiana’s Nov. 8 motion for summary judgment, multiple women’s testimonies are included to help shed light on the experience of obtaining abortions.
One woman, speaking of an abortion induced by medication in which the patient expelled the deceased fetus at home, said: “The thing I remember most is when I passed the baby. . . . I sat on the bathroom floor and cried. Then I had to flush my baby down the toilet because that was what the clinic had told me to do.”
A meta-analysis of research cited in Indiana’s motion showed that women with a history of abortion experienced an 81% increased risk for various mental health problems compared with women who had not had an abortion. It also documented a 55% increased risk of mental health problems associated with abortion compared with women who took an unplanned pregnancy to term.
Besides mental-health concerns, women face significant threats to their physical health. Surgical abortion features such risks as “bleeding, infection, or injury to the cervix, vagina, or uterus,” as described in one physician’s testimony. Medication-induced abortions also carry risks to women’s physical health, with many women experiencing far worse pain and bleeding than expected. “There was so much pain and blood that I thought I might die,” one woman testified.
Indiana’s motion for summary judgment also highlights the importance of licensed physicians for all abortions; the need for abortion physicians to have hospital admitting privileges; the need for physicians to report abortions; the importance of hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers for late-term abortions; and abortion clinic licensing. Further, Indiana’s motion delves into appropriate content and procedures of informed consent, covering such topics as Indiana’s abortion brochure; required disclosure of information; the 18-hour waiting period; the fetal ultrasound; and in-person counseling.
Beyond WWHA’s disregard for the clear need for measures to protect the health and safety of women, Attorney General Hill said, the challenge brought by WWHA is simply based on a faulty legal premise.
“Plaintiffs’ claims fail as a matter of law,” Attorney General Hill said. “Their broad theory is that, under Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the benefits and burdens of all abortion restrictions are subject to judicial fact-finding and rebalancing. But as already confirmed in this very case, controlling precedents upholding abortion restrictions remain good law.”