Indiana University on Wednesday challenged a new state abortion law in federal court, arguing it restricts academic freedom by criminalizing the acquisition or transfer of fetal tissue used for research.This abortion law, similar to one making its way through Ohio, and following a model anti-abortion bill drafted by a right to life group, AUL, and discussed at an ALEC conference, requires the burial or cremation of all fetal remains, and prohibits transfers or acquisitions for other purposes.
The Indiana law in question was approved as House Bill 1337 in March, and it goes into effect at the beginning of July. Its provisions include requiring miscarried and aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated. Other parts of the law prohibit individuals from acquiring, receiving, selling or transferring fetal tissue. It makes the transfer or collection of fetal tissue a felony punishable by up to six years in prison.Ah, but all lives matter, even microscopic ones, says Indiana GOP governor Mike Pence.
Supporters of the law have argued it is a moral move affirming the value of human life. But IU leaders claim it leaves the university in an untenable position. The university legally obtained fetal tissue for important research, they said. Yet the law would leave it trapped with that tissue and unable to transfer it, putting its researchers at legal risk.
The law would also prohibit any researchers from obtaining additional fetal tissue for future needs.
Indiana is arguing the law is unconstitutionally vague and burdensome. The university’s complaint also said the law violates the First Amendment academic freedom rights of Debomoy Lahiri, a professor of psychiatry and a primary investigator for its Stark Neurosciences Research Institute in Indianapolis. IU and Lahiri conduct Alzheimer’s disease research using mixed cell cultures and components like RNA and DNA derived from fetal tissue.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence did not immediately return a request for comment.Yes, all lives matter to Pence, governor of a state which in 2014 was one of the worst states for infant mortality, ranking 45th out of 50. I hesitate to get all judge-y, as the kids say, but Indiana under Pence is not going to be evaluated well given Pence's own standard.
But Pence, a Republican, praised the act when he signed it. The governor called the legislation a “comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life.” The act contains a number of provisions focused on abortion but not directly on fetal tissue. It prohibits performing an abortion if a provider knows a woman is seeking the procedure solely because of a fetus’s ethnicity or sex, or because a fetus could be diagnosed with a disability.
“I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable -- the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn,” Pence said in a statement in March. “HEA 1337 will ensure the dignified final treatment of the unborn and prohibits abortions that are based only on the unborn child's sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry or disability, including Down syndrome.”