By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Thursday declared unconstitutional an Indiana law signed by then-Governor Mike Pence that banned women from having abortions because of the gender, race or disability, including Down’s syndrome, of their fetuses.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said the 2016 ban on “selective” abortions imposed an “undue burden” on the ability to have the procedure.
It rejected Indiana’s suggestion that women’s privacy rights covered only the “binary choice” of whether or not to have a child, not whether to terminate particular pregnancies, including for genetic disabilities.
“The Supreme Court has been clear: the State may inform a woman’s decision before viability, but it cannot prohibit it,” Circuit Judge William Bauer wrote for a 3-0 panel of Republican-appointed judges.
Thursday’s decision was the second from a federal appeals court in two days favoring Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights advocates.
On Wednesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati voided a 2016 Ohio law banning federal taxpayer funds from going to Planned Parenthood clinics in that state, including for non-abortion services such as HIV testing.
The Ohio law was signed by Republican Governor John Kasich. Pence, also a Republican, is now U.S. vice president.
“States have been attempting to restrict abortions in ways that are clearly unconstitutional,” Kenneth Falk, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in an interview after Thursday’s decision. “We’re obviously very happy.”
A spokesman for Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The 7th Circuit decision upheld a September 2017 permanent injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt against the Indiana law.
By a 2-1 vote, the appeals court also struck down a separate provision essentially requiring abortion providers to dispose of aborted fetuses in the same manner as human remains.
Circuit Judge Daniel Manion dissented from that part of the decision, calling the disposal requirement “a legitimate exercise of Indiana’s police power.”
The case is Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc et al v Commission of the Indiana State Department of Health et al, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 17-3163.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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