INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dr. Jeanne Corwin drove about two hours Friday from her hometown of Cincinnati to an Indianapolis abortion clinic, where she saw the clinic’s first 12 patients the next day. an Indiana judge has blocked the state’s abortion ban.
It’s a trip Corwin has made several times in the past few months, as her Ohio medical license allows her to sign the necessary paperwork for Women’s Med Indiana patients to access care at a sister clinic in Dayton.
But with Indiana’s abortion ban temporarily suspended — coupled with a judge’s Sept. 14 ban on nearly all abortions in Ohio — Women’s Med and other Indiana abortion clinics resumed seeing patients Friday in anticipation of further changes amid access mercury abortions in the country following the US Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“It’s a glimmer of hope and a glimmer of common sense,” Corwin said of Thursday’s decision blocking Indiana’s abortion ban.
One patient who attended the clinic on Friday was an Indianapolis woman who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns. She said it was the 31-year-old woman’s second abortion. The first time she was 16 years old, when she was afraid to take care of the child and was worried that her parents would think about her pregnancy.
“At the time, I felt too young to have a baby,” the patient said. “I can’t even imagine what life will be like now.”
Now focused on her career and with a son she gave birth to at age 25, the patient said she chose abortion because she and her partner decided another child would not be the best thing for them right now.
Hours after Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon issued a preliminary injunction against Indiana’s abortion ban on Thursday, the state filed a promised appeal and a motion asking the state’s High Court to take up the case.
Under Indiana’s ban, which has exceptions, abortion clinics would lose their licenses and be prohibited from providing any abortion services, leaving such services exclusively to hospitals or hospital-owned ambulatory surgery centers.
The ban also allows abortions only in cases of rape and incest up to 10 weeks after conception; to protect the patient’s life and physical health; or if the fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.
With Indiana’s law suspended, abortion bans at any stage of pregnancy remain in place in 12 Republican-led states. In Wisconsin, clinics have stopped providing abortions amid a lawsuit over whether the 1849 ban still applies. Georgia bans abortions if fetal heart activity can be detected. And Florida and Utah have bans that go into effect after 15 and 18 weeks of pregnancy, respectively.
The state attorney general’s office asked Hanlon to uphold the state’s ban, saying the arguments against it are based on a “novel, unwritten, historically unsound abortion right” in the state constitution.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represents abortion clinics, filed the lawsuit on August 31 and argued that the ban would “prohibit the vast majority of abortions in Indiana and, as such, would have devastating and irreparable consequences for the plaintiffs and, more importantly, their patients and clients “.
Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said Friday that the plaintiffs now have 15 days to file their response to the state’s request for a stay. He said he does not expect an immediate hearing in the case.
Mike Fichter, president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, said in a statement that the organization is “inspired by the judge’s recognition of the state’s legitimate interest in protecting unborn children” and “hopes that the shutdown will be short.”
While such legal conflicts play out in the background, Women’s Med will provide abortions while it can, likely starting next week, said Dr. Kathy McHugh, an abortion specialist at the clinic.
Patients who came through the clinic’s doors Friday signed state-required consent forms before a second appointment, where the abortion would be performed. In Indiana, the waiting period for an abortion is 18 hours, and in Ohio, it is 24 hours.
The understaffed Indiana clinic will also continue to send patients from Indiana to Ohio for the procedure until the number of women returns to normal. Clinic staff commuted between the two states to keep each clinic afloat when the other was closed, McHugh said.
“The last three months since the Dobbs decision have been so extraordinary that we’ve had to, you know, make do with the time and staff and resources that we’ve had,” McHugh said. “We’re trying to get a foothold again.”
Elsewhere in Indiana, Amy Hagstrom Miller — president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health — said a South Bend abortion clinic is trying to “get the right staff to see patients again.”
Jodi Madeira, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, said the judge’s interpretation of the Indiana Constitution’s liberty clause is encouraging to abortion rights groups, which argue that liberty rights include bodily autonomy.
“It’s a very different argument than you would expect from a Republican judge who tends to read the text of the Constitution narrowly,” said Madeira, who expects the Indiana Supreme Court to ultimately decide the legality of the ban.
There are separate licensing procedures for abortion clinics and hospitals, another burden that offers a “lawful and reasonable justification for terminating” clinic licenses, the judge’s ruling said.
The question of whether the state constitution protects abortion rights remains unresolved. A state appeals court ruled in 2004 that privacy is a fundamental value under the state constitution that applies to all residents, including women seeking abortions.
But the Indiana Supreme Court later upheld a law requiring an 18-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion, though it did not decide whether the state constitution included a right to privacy or abortion.
“You may be right,” Madeira said. – But not access or infrastructure.”
Arlie Rogers is a staff member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported issues. Follow Arlie Rogers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers