Federal judge sides mainly with Indiana University, strikes key provisions of fetal trafficking law

January 2, 2018

U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson mainly sided with Indiana University last week in striking down key fetal trafficking provisions of Indiana’s Dignity for the Unborn Act.  The ruling means Indiana is blocked from enforcing much of the law aimed at prohibiting the trafficking of parts from aborted babies in Indiana.

“We are gravely disappointed with this ruling,” states Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter.  “The purpose of the law is to prevent the trafficking of aborted baby parts in our state.  Most of the safeguards in the law are now gutted due to Indiana University’s penchant for using the parts of aborted babies for experimental purposes.”

Indiana University sued to block the law due to its provision that prohibits the “acquisition, receipt, sale and transfer” of aborted fetal tissue.  In its pleadings, IU acknowledged it obtains tissue from organs such as brains, livers and kidneys for experiments, but argued the law’s definition of fetal tissue is too “vague” when defining it as, “tissue, organs, or any part of an aborted fetus.”   IU also argued that the definition of what it means to “transfer” aborted tissue is too “vague”.

Indiana University’s objections were more straightforward when it declared the statute, “builds a wall around Indiana and prohibits tissue from an aborted fetus from entering or exiting the state.”

“The language and intent of the law is clear,” says Fichter.  “Yet due to courtroom wrangling over what a word like ‘transfer’ means, Indiana’s protections against body parts trafficking is now compromised.”

While undercutting much of the law’s effectiveness, Magnus-Stinson’s ruling does let stand key provisions including the prohibition of selling aborted tissue or organs and the prohibition on altering the timing or type of abortion for the purpose of obtaining parts from aborted babies.

In a setback for Indiana University, Magnus-Stinson rejected IU’s claim that the state law was unconstitutional because it allegedly violates IU’s right to academic freedom, noting the First Amendment does not prevent states “from enacting statutes prohibiting conduct in which the University would like to engage, and then teach about.”

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