Indiana Planned Parenthood clinics stop providing abortions, although ban stays paused

Planned Parenthood officials said abortion-seeking patients will be referred to clinics in other states.

By: - August 1, 2023 10:16 am

Planned Parenthood’s “patient navigator team” will help guide patients through the process of getting abortion care out of state after the nonprofit announced Tuesday that it will no longer offer the procedure in Indiana. (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

Planned Parenthood announced Tuesday that its Indiana clinics have stopped providing abortion care, even though the state’s near-total ban on the procedure still remains on hold.

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, said during a news conference that the nonprofit’s 11 health centers in Indiana will remain open.

Planned Parenthood is licensed to offer abortion services at four Indiana clinics located in Indianapolis, Bloomington, Lafayette and Merrillville.

It is unclear whether the state’s other two abortion clinics are still providing services.

Planned Parenthood staff will continue to provide “a long list of essential health care services,” including support to help patients access abortions in other states, emergency contraception, birth control, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, pregnancy consultation, cancer screenings, gender-affirming hormone care for people over 18, and wellness visits.

“Today is a dark day for millions of Hoosiers and others who rely on Indiana Planned Parenthood for abortion care. … Until today, Indiana was the region’s pivotal state for preserving abortion access for people in the region. Our appointments were booked out for months. But now, extremists are taking away abortion care in Indiana,” Gibron said.

“But I’m here to tell Hoosiers — Planned Parenthood will always be here for you when you need us,” she continued. “We are not going anywhere,” Parenthood of Indiana will not be intimidated and bullied and we will not be silenced.”

Right to Life of Indiana President and CEO Mike Fichter, on the other hand, said in a statement late Tuesday that the anti-abortion organization is “pleased that many abortion businesses in Indiana are ceasing operations.” He emphasized, though, that “the status of this law remains unclear.”

“We are hopeful that the Indiana Supreme Court moves quickly to affirm that this new law is in effect, and it can proceed with ending 95% of abortions in our state,” Fichter said. “This is really a life and death matter for thousands of unborn babies.”

Planned Parenthood abortions end, although the procedure remains legal

Despite hesitancy among health care providers — and confusion over whether Indiana’s near-total abortion ban would go back into effect Tuesday — the law will not be enforceable until the state Supreme Court certifies its June ruling.

Indiana Supreme Court justices tossed out a wide-ranging preliminary injunction in late June when they largely upheld the state’s abortion ban on constitutional liberty grounds

But until the high court certifies its decision, an injunction remains in place — blocking the new law from taking effect. 

The Indiana Supreme Court said Tuesday that briefs will be filed and the court will review. There is no timeline for any decisions from the court. For now, that leaves in place the state’s previous abortion law, which allows abortions up to 20 weeks.

Even so, abortion care providers on Tuesday emphasized the chilling effect of the impending ban.

“There is no greater honor than helping someone regain control of their life. That is exactly what we do when we provide abortion care,” said Dr. Katie McHugh, an obstetrician-gynecologist and abortion provider in Indianapolis. “Today in Indiana, hundreds of thousands of people will be refused the care that they need and deserve. We will tell them that they have to leave the state …and they will have to travel hundreds of miles to reclaim ownership of their own bodies and futures. Or perhaps they will be so confused by the legal landscape, they will give up and not even try.”

Dr. Katie McHugh

McHugh added that, historically, when abortion care is not available or accessible, “people become desperate.” 

She said “that is exactly what we have seen already in Indiana over the last year,” since the passage of Senate Enrolled Act 1.

“We have seen patients attempt to end pregnancies through dangerous means when they felt there were no other options,” McHugh said. “We’ve seen assault survivors struggle to meet the deadlines imposed by the state to terminate a pregnancy. We’ve helped so many for whom this is not the right time to expand their family. And these are just the stories of the people who find us. Imagine all the people who never make their way to care.”

After the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly advanced the abortion-restricting measure during a heated, two-week special session in August 2022, fewer Hoosiers sought abortions in-state from Planned Parenthood even as the number of out-of-state clients surged. The organization said 25% of its non-Hoosier clients are from Kentucky, which has a near-total ban in place.

The Planned Parenthood location that has performed the most abortions in Indiana in recent years — Indianapolis’ Georgetown clinic — stopped offering abortion services for six months. All other services have continued.

An uncertain timeline

In their latest court filing Monday in a legal challenge against the abortion ban, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana requested a rehearing, pushing back the date of certification even farther.

In doing so, they asked the Indiana Supreme Court to allow the earlier preliminary injunction to remain in effect while the trial court resolves the matter.

It’s not clear how long that judicial process could take to play out, however.

“On the eve of Indiana’s pro-life law going into effect, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood made a desperate attempt to prevent Indiana from enforcing our own law. We responded to this filing immediately and are now waiting for the Court to rule,” said Katlyn Milligan, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, in a statement to the Indiana Capital Chronicle on Tuesday. “The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have made their intentions clear — this is just another grab for fundraising dollars.”

For now, Gibron said Planned Parenthood’s “patient navigator team” will help guide patients through the process of getting abortion care out of state — which she said is aided by “abortion funds” — and providing follow-up care once patients return to Indiana.

“Planned Parenthood of Indiana will not back down. We will be courageous in the courts and courageous in the clinics. Planned Parenthood will not be silenced. We will turn up the volume, making sure everyone has access to medically accurate information about how to get abortion care in other states,” she said. 

“Our patients are our North Star. The people we provide care for are the people that we keep in our heads with every decision that we make,” Gibron continued. “Every person in every circumstance deserves access to health care when and where they need it.”

There are two other abortion clinics licensed in the state that are not affiliated with Planned Parenthood. Both are in Indianapolis. Neither responded to requests for comment Tuesday.

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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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