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Groups ask judge to block Indiana 'abortion reversal' law

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Abortion rights groups asked a federal judge on Tuesday to block a new Indiana law that would require doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions about a disputed treatment for potentially stopping the abortion process.

The lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis argues that the requirement would confuse patients and increase the stigma associated with obtaining an abortion, while also forcing doctors to give what they regard as dubious medical information. The groups want a judge to block the new so-called “abortion reversal” law from taking effect as scheduled in July.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb last month signed the bill, which GOP legislators argued would ensure that a woman had information about halting a medication-induced abortion if she changes her mind after taking the first of the two drugs used in the procedure and takes another drug instead.

The lawsuit maintains the requirement wrongly singles out doctors providing abortion drugs and their patients.

“No other healthcare providers are required to inform their patients about experimental medical interventions, the safety and efficacy of which are wholly unsupported by reliable scientific evidence, and no other patients are required to receive such information as a condition of treatment,” the lawsuit said.

Six states already have similar requirements in place, while such laws in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee have been blocked by legal challenges, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

The Indiana lawsuit also challenges a new state law banning doctors from providing abortion services by virtual visits with patients.

Republican state Attorney General Todd Rokita said his office would seek to have the law take effect.

“Protecting the God-given right to life, especially for the unborn who can’t protect themselves, is my highest priority,” Rokita said in a statement.

Medication abortions accounted for 44% of the roughly 7,600 abortions performed in Indiana in 2019, according to the state health department’s most recent statistics.

The Indiana law is part of a wave of legislation being pushed in several Republican-led states to further restrict medication abortion and ban telemedicine abortions.

Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature has adopted numerous abortion restrictions over the past decade, with several of them later blocked by challenges in federal court.

Among those challenges, a federal judge in 2019 ruled against the state’s ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure that the legislation called “dismemberment abortion.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 also rejected Indiana’s appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked the state’s ban on abortion based on gender, race or disability. However, it upheld a portion of the 2016 law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains after an abortion.

Republican state Rep. Peggy Mayfield of Martinsville, who sponsored this year’s bill said she wasn’t concerned about the potential cost of a lawsuit.

“I think the priority is on saving babies and not whether or not someone wants to take us to court, because we win some and we lose some,” Mayfield said during a committee hearing.

Tom Davies, The Associated Press