(Pic via Wikimedia Commons)

Indiana faces legal action over ‘fetal pain’ bill that requires doctors to tell women life begins at fertilization

By | 06.08.11 | 4:00 pm

It has been a big year for Indiana’s war against abortion.

At the center of attention has been the state’s plan to defund Planned Parenthood, a chain of women’s health clinics, because some of the clinics provide abortion services. The state is now in embroiled in a legislative battle involving the federal government. The outcome of this fight could determine the fates of other state Medicaid plans, as well.

One of the other legally contentious laws that will soon take effect in Indiana has gotten little attention in comparison. The law would require doctors administering an abortion to tell women that life begins at fertilization and that a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks gestation.

According to The Indianapolis Star, it is “one section of House Enrolled Act 1210 that hasn’t received as much attention” that has set these mandates for medical professionals providing abortion services.

Indiana’s House Enrolled Act No. 1210 says:

The physician who is to perform the abortion or the referring physician has to orally inform the pregnant woman, orally and in writing, of the following:

(C)(D) The objective scientific information of the risks of and alternatives to the procedure, or treatment; including: (i) the risk of infection and hemorrhage; (ii) the potential danger to a subsequent pregnancy; and (iii) the potential danger of infertility.

(E) That human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm.

(D) (F) The probable gestational age of the fetus at the time the abortion is to be performed, including: an offer to provide: (i) a picture or drawing of a fetus; (ii) the dimensions of a fetus; and (iii) relevant information on the potential survival of an unborn fetus; at this stage of development.

(G) That objective scientific information shows that a fetus can feel pain at or before twenty (20) weeks of postfertilization age.

The Star reports that “Planned Parenthood and the ACLU argue that forcing doctors to give information that they believe is false and misleading violates the First Amendment protection of free speech.”

The Florida Legislature faced the same legal issues during this year’s passage of an ultrasound bill that requires doctors to perform an ultrasound before providing an abortion — whether it is medically necessary or not. Originally, the bill contained language that forced women to see the ultrasound and hear a description of it.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, voiced his concerns about what exactly women seeking an abortion would be forced to hear. He asked the bill’s sponsor, “Could that be, ‘I see the little legs kicking. I see the heart beating’? Those kinds of things? Is that what the woman is going to have to go through here?”

The final version of the bill provides an opt-out provision for the viewing and explanation of the ultrasound. Women can choose not hear or see the ultrasound by signing a form. However, abortion providers are still required to perform the ultrasound.

Such opt-out provisions are not found in Indiana’s law, though.

Provision (G) of Indiana’s bill is one of many laws states have been trying to pass around the country. These “fetal pain bills” have been called constitutionally unsound — as well as medically unsound.

A “fetal pain” measure was among the 18 anti-abortion bills introduced during Florida’s legislative session this year. The bill, however, did not make it out of committee.

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