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Judge Hears Challenge to Indiana Abortion Limits for Minors

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A federal judge sounded skeptical of a new Indiana abortion law Tuesday while hearing a request to block parts of the law that will make it tougher for girls under age 18 to get an abortion without their parents' knowledge.

U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker heard arguments on a preliminary injunction being sought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

The groups sued Indiana officials on May 18, seeking to block some provisions of the new law, and saying they would create "an unconstitutional undue burden on unemancipated minors."

Under existing Indiana law, girls younger than 18 must either get their parents' consent to have an abortion or seek permission from a judge. But the new law would require the judge considering that request to also weigh whether the girl's parents should receive notification of her pursuit of the so-called "judicial bypass," regardless of the decision on the abortion itself.

Barker peppered Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher about that change and two other provisions of the law that are being challenged. She questioned if they would truly further Indiana's stated interest of "protecting pregnant minors" and encouraging parental involvement in the child's decision to have an abortion.

Barker said notifying a minor's parent, legal guardian or custodian that she was seeking an abortion could cause significant family discord and also create a "substantial obstacle" for the minor seeking the abortion.

"I would say family conflict and disagreement is not in the best interest of the minor," she said.

Fisher replied that the law will give parents more information on what their child is doing and alert them that the minor is pursuing the "life-altering decision" of ending a pregnancy.

Ken Falk, the legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said that notifying a parent or guardian that their child is seeking an abortion would interfere with the minor's rights.

"It looks like a reduction of rights, doesn't it?" Barker asked Falk, who agreed.

Barker said she'll rule on the injunction request before July 1, when the law passed by Indiana's Republican-dominated Legislature takes effect.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who signed the law April 25, has called the measure a "parental rights issue."

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