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Planned Parenthood sues Indiana over abortion clinic requirements

By Susan Guyett

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Planned Parenthood filed a federal challenge on Thursday to an Indiana law requiring clinics that administer the so-called abortion pill to have full surgical facilities, which it says would halt abortion services at a clinic in the state.

Under the law, Planned Parenthood would have to upgrade its clinic in Lafayette, Indiana, to surgical standards or stop administering RU-486, commonly called the abortion pill, it said in a lawsuit filed in Indianapolis federal court.

Separately, the group that has been at the forefront of the U.S. national battle over abortion won a legal fight to block an Arizona law that would have cut off funding through the state for its health care clinics because they also performs abortions.

Imposing surgical facility requirements on clinics where no surgery is performed "is not only unreasonable, it is utterly irrational ...," Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said in the lawsuit, which seeks a federal court injunction.

Legislators supporting the law that took effect July 1 have said it would protect women's health. It requires clinics providing non-surgical abortions to have separate procedure, recovery and scrub rooms like surgical centers starting January 1.

Planned Parenthood operates four of the 10 clinics that provide abortions in Indiana. Three Planned Parenthood clinics perform surgical abortions and administer the abortion pill at up to nine weeks of pregnancy. The Lafayette clinic offers only the abortion pill at up to nine weeks of pregnancy.

The Lafayette clinic provided 54 non-surgical abortions in the 12 months ended July 1, and other medication, primarily contraception, more than 10,000 times, the lawsuit said.

If the Lafayette clinic stops providing non-surgical abortions, the closest clinics are 60 miles away in Indianapolis or 85 miles in Merrillville, Planned Parenthood said, adding that the Lafayette clinic would continue to provide health services.

Planned Parenthood applied on July 15 with Indiana state health officials for a license and a waiver of the requirements.

The Indiana law exempts physician's offices from the requirements as long as surgical procedures performed there are not primarily surgical abortions and abortion-inducing drugs are not the primarily prescribed drugs.

The requirements violate a woman's constitutional right to privacy, equal protection and are "arbitrary and irrational" in violation of a woman's right to due process, the lawsuit said.

The two-pill abortion medication called RU-486 has been legally available in the United States since 2000. By 2008 it accounted for about a quarter of U.S. abortions performed before nine weeks of gestation, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports the right to abortion.

In the Arizona case, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed that the law robs individuals on Medicaid of the ability to choose healthcare services. The law would have stopped Medicaid funding for all procedures to any healthcare provider who performed abortions.

The bill targeting Planned Parenthood was signed into law in May 2012 by Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, with the strong backing of socially conservative lawmakers. It came as part of nationwide moves by abortion opponents to defund groups like Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Medicaid, a joint program between states and the federal government, provides healthcare coverage for low-income individuals.

(Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by David Bailey, Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker)

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