US Supreme Court Sends Indiana Abortion Cases Back to Lower Courts

By Lawrence Hurley

July 06, 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday sent two Indiana abortion disputes back to lower courts including a fight over a restriction that would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure at least 18 hours before terminating a pregnancy.

The nine justices tossed lower court rulings that blocked two Republican-backed state laws from taking effect, one of which is the ultrasound measure passed by the state legislature in 2016 and signed by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana's governor before Donald Trump selected him as his running mate.

The second law would require that parents be notified when a girl under 18 is seeking an abortion even in situations in which she has asked a court to provide consent instead of her parents, as was allowed under existing law.

The justices threw out the two rulings - both issued by the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals - and directed the appellate court to reconsider the cases in light of the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on Monday invalidating a Louisiana law that imposed restrictions on doctors who perform abortions.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's liberals in the majority on the basis that the law was almost identical to a measure from Texas the court struck down in 2016.

The court action means the state has a second chance to argue that its abortion policies at issue were lawful.

In a third Indiana case, the court left in place a ruling in favor of an abortion clinic seeking a license to open a clinic in South Bend. The state appealed when the 7th Circuit ruled in 2019 that abortion provider Whole Woman's Health could get a provisional license while the litigation continued.