#WinsforWomen: Federal Court Rules that Indiana’s Forced Ultrasound Law Unconstitutionally Burdens a Woman’s Right to Abortion

Last week, a federal district court in Indiana blocked part of one of the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the country, signed by then-governor Mike Pence, that required women who have decided to have an abortion to get an ultrasound at least 18 hours before the procedure.  The court found that the ultrasound mandatory delay requirement was “likely unconstitutional,” because it created an undue burden on women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to abortion.
An ultrasound is not medically necessary for a first trimester abortion nor does undergoing an ultrasound change a woman’s mind about the procedure.  Rather, these forced ultrasound laws are meant to shame and pressure women who have decided to have an abortion, force them to undergo an unnecessary medical procedure, and increase the costs of getting an abortion.
In an effort to make it even harder for women who have decided to have an abortion, the 18-hour requirement changed Indiana’s existing forced-ultrasound requirement, adding the mandatory delay, which is yet another medically unnecessary and burdensome step.  This requirement forced a woman to make two trips to a clinic – one to receive the ultrasound and one to actually get an abortion.
In blocking the law, the court emphasized that it created burdens that “may seem” insignificant, but in practice, can completely impede a woman’s ability to access the abortion care she has decided she wants and needs.  Specifically, the court observed that women and families struggling to make ends meet are unlikely to be able to absorb increased costs caused by longer travel distances, loss of pay because a woman would have to take off more time from work, and increased child care expenses.  Forcing women to take two trips also increases the risks for women trying to keep their abortion confidential from abusive spouses.  And the delays created by the law may mean a woman is unable to obtain an abortion at all.
This decision (as well as this one, this one, this one, and others across the country) sends a clear signal to now Vice President Mike Pence and other politicians that they can’t put abortion out of reach by passing medically unnecessary and unconstitutional laws, and they should stop trying to interfere with a woman’s ability to make personal reproductive health decisions.