Indiana Abortion Advocates Want to Kill Right to Know Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 23, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Indiana Abortion Advocates Want to Kill Right to Know Law

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
November 23, 2003

Indianapolis, IN ( — The state of Indiana is waging a legal battle to protect a pro-life law designed to ensure that women considering abortion receive face-to-face counseling at least 18 hours before the abortion.

Thomas M. Fisher, special counsel to Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter, told a state appeals court last week that the state has an interest in protecting the health of an unborn child.

Pro-abortion forces are attempting to have the law declared unconstitutional. A lawyer for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, Ken Falk, claims the measure violates a woman’s right to privacy and an abortion practitioner’s right to free speech under the state constitution.

"The purpose isn’t to provide informed consent. It’s to undermine the woman’s decision to have an abortion," Falk said.

But defenders of the law point out that the state Supreme Court, in a different ruling, noted that the measure could help safeguard a woman’s health.

The 1995 law requires abortion practitioners to provide women considering abortion with information, in person and at least 18 hours prior to the abortion, regarding abortion’s risks, dangers and alternatives as well as materials on fetal development.

The fetal development pictures must show the unborn child at approximately the same age as the baby she is carrying.

Similar pro-life laws in other states have proven effective in reducing abortion significantly.

According to Fisher, the High Court "had pretty well acknowledged that there is a link between this law and protecting the long-term psychological and emotional health of the pregnant woman."

Last Thursday’s oral arguments represent just the latest phase in an eight-year legal battle. The three-judge state panel will decide if a state lawsuit is sent back to trial. The lawsuit, which was filed by pro-abortion groups in February, was dismissed in May by a Marion Superior Court judge.

The judicial panel’s decision is not expected for two to four months. It is unclear at this point whether the ruling will be ultimately appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Pro-abortion attorneys argue the counseling harms the doctor-patient relationship, and that the counseling sessions involve promoting ideological positions the state wants to advance.

But Fisher counters that the informed consent law requires the disclosure of facts, not opinions.

Pro-life groups say they are disappointed, but not surprised, by the lawsuit.

"It is disturbing to see the extent that abortion providers will go to
in trying to keep women from receiving informed consent when making an abortion decision," Indiana Right to Life executive director Mike Fichter told "The Indiana law is simply safeguarding a woman’s right to know the truth."

Sponsors of other such measures across the country say that the laws have proven helpful in informing women about exactly what’s involved in choosing abortion. Pennsylvania, for instance, recorded a large decrease in the total number of abortions in the state after its informed consent law went into effect in 1994.