Indiana abortion law: Judge weighs whether ban challenges religious rights


INDIANAPOLIS– A top Indiana attorney on Friday questioned the validity of a lawsuit filed by a group of residents who argue that the state’s abortion ban violates their religious freedoms.

The video featured is from a previous report.

A judge heard arguments Friday for about an hour in an Indianapolis courtroom, spurred by claims from five anonymous residents — Jewish, Muslim and spiritual — and the group Hoosier Jews for Choice. They argue that the ban – which is currently blocked due to a separate lawsuit – violates their religious rights regarding when they think abortion is acceptable.

Lawsuit says ban violates Jewish teaching that “a fetus does not attain the status of a living person until birth” and that “Jewish law emphasizes the need to protect life and physical and mental health of the mother before birth”. It also cites theological teachings authorizing abortion in at least some circumstances by the Islamic, Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist, and Pagan religions.

“The state simply cannot decree what is religious and what is secular,” Ken Falk, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said Friday.

Filed in Marion County Court, the religious liberty lawsuit is the second of two challenges to the ban filed by the ACLU. He cites a state law that then-Gov. Mike Pence signed in 2015 to ban any law that “dramatically burdens” a person’s ability to follow their religious beliefs. Critics denounced the Republican-backed measure as a thinly disguised attempt to allow discrimination against gay people.

RELATED: Indiana abortion ban remains on hold as state Supreme Court agrees to hear case

In response to the religious liberty complaint, the state attorney general’s office said the anonymous stories cited in the lawsuit were too abstract to analyze, adding that “their asserted harms regarding changes to their contraceptive practices and sexual offenses do not outweigh the grave consequences of murder”. an unborn child.”

Solicitor General Thomas Fisher reiterated that argument on Friday, when he argued that anonymous complainants’ “hypothetical” reasons for an abortion failed to meet the law’s “case-by-case factual investigation” requirement. religious freedom.

“We are not at the point where abortion becomes part of religious exercise, if it ever does,” Fisher said.

Marion County Judge Heather Welch said both sides must submit additional written submissions by Oct. 28 and she will issue her decision within 30 days.

The ACLU’s other lawsuit involves allegations that the ban violates the state constitution, which the Indiana Supreme Court said Wednesday it would review next year.

The High Court has taken up appeals from a judge’s ruling in September that blocked the ban a week after it took effect and rejected a state request to overturn the temporary block. A scheduled hearing on the lawsuit, filed in August by the abortion clinic operators, is set for January 12.

Because the state Supreme Court is considering the other case, Fisher said issuing a preliminary injunction for religious freedom would only have “symbolic significance.”

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“Tokenistic decisions are not the court’s business,” Fisher, a senior aide to Republican Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, said on Friday.

Falk, however, told reporters after the hearing that having a second preliminary injunction against the ban creates more certainty, particularly because the lawsuits deal with separate aspects of the law.

The abortion ban, which includes narrow exceptions, was approved by the state’s GOP-dominated legislature on Aug. 5 and signed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. This made Indiana the first state to pass stricter abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated federal abortion protections by overturning Roe v. Wade in June.

No faith is monolithic on the issue of abortion. Still, many followers of religions that do not prohibit abortion have lamented that stricter abortion laws may supersede their individual rights and religious beliefs, such as Judaism’s position as described in the lawsuit.

Similar lawsuits have been filed elsewhere recently, including in Kentucky and Florida, where a synagogue argued in June that state abortion restrictions violated Jewish religious freedom rights.


Arleigh Rodgers is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow her on Twitter at

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