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Indiana abortions drop sharply ahead of state ban possibly taking effect, state reports show

FILE - Abortion protesters attempt to handout literature as they stand in the driveway of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Indianapolis, Aug. 16, 2019. The number of abortions being performed in Indiana has dropped steeply ahead of a court ruling that has a Republican-backed abortion ban set to potentially take effect in the coming weeks. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The number of abortions being performed in Indiana has dropped steeply even before a court ruling that has a Republican-backed abortion ban set to potentially take effect in the coming weeks.

New reports from the Indiana Department of Health show the state’s abortion total during 2022 jumped by 13% — an increase caused by out-of-state patients coming to Indiana for the procedure as tighter laws took effect in Kentucky and Ohio.

But in a sign of the quickly changing landscape of abortion availability, the number of Indiana procedures plunged in the last months of 2022 and the first months of 2023 as two of the state’s seven licensed abortion clinics reported no abortions during the January-March period.

The new state reports were posted online Friday, the same day the Indiana Supreme Court released its decision finding the abortion ban adopted by the Republican-dominated Legislature last summer does not violate the state constitution. That decision did not immediately put the ban into effect, but it overturned a county judge’s order from September that has allowed abortions to continue in the state.

Dr. Amy Caldwell, an Indianapolis obstetrician who performs abortions for Planned Parenthood, said last week she has seen increased anxiety among patients who don’t understand the legal battle.

“We have seen a lot of fear and a lot of misunderstanding of patients who believe that abortion access has been restricted and isn’t available in Indiana,” Caldwell said.

The number of Indiana abortions rose by 1,115 to 9,529 during 2022, according to the state reports. That increase came from abortions involving out-of-state patients growing from 465 in 2021 to 1,827 last year — with about 85% of those patients coming from Kentucky or Ohio.

The monthly abortion rate dropped by one-third or more in the last months of 2022 as the state abortion ban took effect for about a week before being blocked by court order and abortion clinics faced patient confusion and staffing shortages.

That decline continued into the first three months of this year, with a 15% decline from that same time during 2022. A Planned Parenthood clinic in Indianapolis, which has in the past led the state in abortions performed, and Whole Woman’s Health in South Bend, which announced its closure last month, reported no abortions during that period.

Planned Parenthood cited staff training earlier this year as the reason for not providing abortions at the Indianapolis clinic but did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the clinic’s status and the state reports.

Indiana was the first state to enact tighter abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated federal protections by overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022. But the leader of the state’s most prominent anti-abortion group said Indiana became “an abortion destination state” once a judge blocked the ban.

“This is exactly what we warned would happen,” Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said. “We are hopeful the recent Indiana Supreme Court ruling ends this exploitation by abortion businesses.”

The Indiana ban would prohibit the vast majority of abortions even in the earliest stages of a pregnancy. It includes exceptions allowing abortions at hospitals in cases of rape or incest before 10 weeks post-fertilization. It also allows abortions up to 20 weeks to protect the life and physical health of the mother or if a fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly.

Although the state Supreme Court’s decision last week strikes down the injunction blocking the ban, the justices returned the case to the county judge for further action and left open the possibility of a narrower legal challenge.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, representing Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinic operators in the lawsuit, has 30 days to ask the Supreme Court to review the decision but has not said whether it would do so.

Court orders have allowed abortions to continue since September under existing laws generally prohibiting abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and tightly restricting it after the 13th week. The state report showed 99% of abortions during 2022 were performed at 13 weeks or earlier.

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