Ind. Attorney General opposes IU’s bid to join suit to block abortion law

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INDIANAPOLIS (May 21, 2016) — Indiana’s attorney general is opposing Indiana University’s effort to join a federal lawsuit that seeks to block a new state law mandating that aborted fetuses be buried or cremated.

The school recently filed a motion seeking to intervene in the suit, claiming the law could subject researchers to criminal charges because they use fetal tissue for research into autism, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

A motion filed Friday by Indiana’s attorney general contends the school’s argument and the lawsuit are “distinct legal issues” that shouldn’t be heard in the same case. The motion also asks a judge to deny IU’s request, saying IU should raise its legal claims by filing a separate lawsuit.

“These two separate disputes do not sufficiently overlap to justify litigating them together,” Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a written statement.

The law set to take effect July 1 would also ban abortions sought because of genetic abnormalities. North Dakota is the only other state with such a ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed the lawsuit in April, contending the law is unconstitutional and violates privacy rights. A federal judge will hold a hearing June 14 to consider the suit’s request for an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect.

IU claims in its motion, filed Monday, that the law’s criminalization of acquiring, receiving, selling or transferring fetal tissue is unconstitutionally vague and would violate researchers’ First Amendment right to academic freedom.

IU seeks to add as parties to the lawsuit the school’s trustees, its vice president of research and two IU researchers.  That includes Debomoy Lahiri, a professor of psychiatry and a primary investigator for IU’s Stark Neurosciences Research Institute.

The motion states that when researchers join or leave IU “they transfer their laboratory materials with them.”

“Therefore, even were Dr. Lahiri to stop doing his research in the state of Indiana as a result of the Enrolled Act, he runs the risk that the mere act of transferring his research to another institution would constitute a felony,” IU’s motion states.

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