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IU joins lawsuit against new abortion law

Posted at 8:36 PM, May 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-20 23:38:17-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana University has joined the fight against the state's new abortion law.

This week, the school joined a challenge against HEA 1337 filed in federal court by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

MORE | Read more about what HEA 1337 entails here | Read about the ACLU and PPINK's lawsuit against the law here | See how the law sparked the "Periods for Pence" group in opposition

IU claims the law could result in criminal charges against the university and its employees engaged in ongoing fetal tissue research on autism, Alzheimer's and other diseases because of its restrictions on how fetal tissue must be handled and disposed of.

"When researchers join or separate from IU, they transfer their laboratory materials with them," a motion for injunctive relief filed Monday reads. "Therefore, even were Dr. [Debomoy] 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."

Debomoy, a professor of psychiatry and a primary investigator for IU's Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, is named as a party in the complaint, as are Dr. Bruce Lamb, a professor of medical and molecular genetics at IU School of Medicine and director of the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, and the IU Board of Trustees.

The complaint argues HEA 1337's criminalization of acquiring, receiving, selling or transferring fetal tissue is unconstitutionally vague and violate researchers' First Amendment right to academic freedom.

The Indiana Attorney General's Office filed its opposition to IU joining PPINK's lawsuit on Friday, arguing the school's complaints don't sufficiently overlap with the existing suit.

“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 written statement.

HEA 1337 is scheduled to take effect July 1. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has yet to rule on PPINK's request for an injunction.