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Monday, May 23, 2016

Ind. Courts - "IU goes to court to oppose new fetal tissue law"

Rod Spaw reported May 21 in the $$ Bloomington Herald-Times - some quotes:

Indiana University fears it could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in grant funding and suffer "catastrophic" setbacks to important medical research from a state law that places new restrictions on abortion and prohibits the use or transfer of fetal tissue, effective July 1.

IU has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana challenging provisions of House Enrolled Act 1337, which the university argues could potentially subject its researchers to criminal prosecution simply by complying with conditions of research grants. The law also potentially delays research that could lead to "breakthroughs in treatments and cures" for people with a variety of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease and autism spectrum disorders, according to documents filed with the court.

The university filed a motion last Monday with the district court to intervene, or join, a lawsuit brought in April by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc. and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana that challenges the constitutionality of the new law. Among other provisions, the bill passed this year by the Indiana General Assembly bans abortions sought solely because of genetic abnormalities and mandates than an aborted fetus be buried or cremated.

Then, on Friday, IU's lawyers filed a motion asking the court to bar the state from enforcing the new law until a court rules on the merits of its claims, which concern provisions not addressed in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit. * * *

The problematic language, according to IU's lawsuit, is a section that makes it a level 5 felony — punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 — to internationally acquire, receive, sell or transfer fetal tissue, which that section further defines as the "tissue, organs or any other part of an aborted fetus."

IU does not conduct research using whole fetuses at any stage of viability, but it does acquire fetal tissue to create cell cultures used in research on Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders. According to court documents, the tissue has been obtained for several years from a laboratory at the University of Washington, which acquires it both from elective abortions and miscarriages. * * *

The university's request to intervene in the lawsuit was opposed Friday by motion filed by the office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller on behalf of defendants in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit. Among its objections was the issues raised by IU were different than those in the original lawsuit and would be better handled in a separate lawsuit. As it stands, Planned Parenthood's motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for a hearing before the court on June 14.

The Indianapolis Star reported May 21st, in a story by Michael Anthony Adams - some quotes:
In their motion, IU's attorneys argue that the new abortion law "criminalizes millions of dollars of ongoing, federally funded IU research regarding Alzheimer’s disease."

But Indiana's attorney general's office said the state does not have a right to meddle in the suit, saying the school's argument and the lawsuit are "distinct legal issues" that shouldn't be heard in the same case. It asks the court to deny IU's request.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Indiana's attorney general, said the school "can and should raise their legal claims by filing a separate lawsuit rather than joining an existing one."

“These two separate disputes do not sufficiently overlap to justify litigating them together; IU is not making the same legal argument as Planned Parenthood or even challenging the same statute as Planned Parenthood,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement Friday, after the state filed its objection. * * *

IU claims in its motion, filed Monday, that the law’s criminalization of acquiring, receiving, selling or transferring fetal tissue is unconstitutionally vague. IU's motion also cites the First Amendment, saying that the law would infringe on university scientists' right to academic freedom.

Dr. Debomoy Lahiri, a member of IU's faculty who is party to the school's motion, conducts research on the biochemical differences between autism and Alzheimer’s disease, and uses fetal tissue in his research. The new law, set to go into effect July 1, would block IU scientists, such as Lahiri, from conducting ongoing research and prevent them from acquiring the materials they need to continue that research, the school's motion states.

IU seeks to add as parties to the lawsuit the school’s trustees, its vice president of research and two IU researchers. That includesLahiri, 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.

"(The law) jeopardizes the personal liberty of IU research scientists who are unable to conform their conduct to the fetal tissue statute’s restrictions," the motion reads. "(It) exposes IU to tremendous losses of federal (National Institutes of Health) funding, of which IU receives nearly $200 million annually ... (and) impairs IU’s standing as a pre-eminent research institution and discourages prominent researchers from choosing to conduct their research at IU."

ILB: Here is AG Zoeller's May 20 news release.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 23, 2016 09:49 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts