Trustees of Indiana University v. Curry, No. 18-1146 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Indiana University and faculty members, claiming interference with medical scholarship, challenged a state statute, providing that “[a] person who intentionally acquires, receives, sells, or transfers fetal tissue commits unlawful transfer of fetal tissue, a Level 5 felony,” Ind. Code 35‐46‐5‐1.5(d). A federal district court held that several terms in the statute were unconstitutionally vague and that it must be treated as if it read: “A person who intentionally sells fetal tissue commits unlawful transfer of fetal tissue, a Level 5 felony.” The definitional clause, as enacted, read: “As used in this section, ‘fetal tissue’ includes tissue, organs, or any other part of an aborted fetus.” The court held it must be treated as if it read: “As used in this section, ‘fetal tissue’ includes tissue or organs of an aborted fetus.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. A federal judge cannot definitively interpret Indiana statutes but the state judiciary can do so in a declaratory judgment suit. Instead of using an available state‐law remedy, the plaintiffs asked a federal court to invalidate the law. The statute survives an equal‐protection challenge under a rational basis test. The law regulates conduct, not speech and does not discriminate against interstate commerce. A Takings Clause claim is confined to the University but the University, as part of Indiana, is not entitled to sue the state.