Indiana abortion debate draws protest crowds
Several thousand people on both sides of the abortion issue protested at the Indiana Statehouse on the first day of a contentious special legislative session. (July 25)
A county judge in Indiana issued a preliminary injunction Thursday that brings a temporary halt to Indiana’s abortion ban, one of the more restrictive in the nation.
Special Judge Kelsey B. Hanlon wrote in her ruling that although abortion was not legal at the time that the Indiana Constitution was written, language contained in the document suggest that there is “a reasonable likelihood” that decisions about family planning ― including whether to carry a pregnancy to term ― are protected.
Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita said his office plans to appeal the decision.
“Our office remains determined to fight for the lives of the unborn, and this law provides a reasonable way to begin doing that,” Rokita said in a statement.
Hanlon’s ruling came after the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood of Indiana, clinics that provide abortion and providers brought the suit against the state in the wake of Senate Bill 1, which banned abortions in the state except in certain case of rape or incest, a serious risk to the life of the mother, or fatal fetal anomalies.
In a joint statement, plaintiffs in the case welcomed the decision but said that this is just one step along a long road to protect abortion rights.
“We knew this ban would cause irreparable harm to Hoosiers, and in just a single week, it has done just that,” the joint statement read. “We are grateful that the court granted much needed relief for patients, clients, and providers but this fight is far from over. “
The abortion law, which went into effect Sept. 15 after being signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in August, only allowed abortions in order to prevent a serious health risk or death of the mother, when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest up to 10 weeks post fertilization or when the fetus has been determined to have a fatal anomaly up to 20 weeks.
In an emailed statement Thursday, Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said he hoped the injunction would prove to be a temporary one.
“Today’s blockage of Indiana’s new law means over 161 unborn children will continue to lose their lives to abortion every week this injunction stays in effect,” Fichter said. “We are encouraged by the judge’s acknowledgement of the state’s legitimate interest in protecting unborn babies and are hopeful the blockage will be brief. “
In her ruling, Hanlon wrote that the court cannot disregard “the legitimate public interest served by protecting fetal life.”
Republican legislative leaders at the Statehouse pushed the bill through a contentious, two-week special legislative session despite fierce opposition from anti-abortion and abortion-rights groups alike and debate among Republican lawmakers over how far to restrict access. Some Hoosiers thought the bill was far too restrictive, while others were hoping for fewer exceptions to the near-total ban.
State Democrats praised the court decision, saying “every Hoosier has a fundamental right to privacy.”
“Only a woman and her doctor should make personal health care decisions, not politicians, and it’s reassuring to see the decision show Hoosiers that the Indiana Republican Party’s effort to ban a legal and safe abortion has crossed the line,” Lauren Ganapini, executive director for the Indiana Democratic Party, said in a statement.
Republicans at the Statehouse were mostly silent after the court decision. House Speaker Todd Huston did not immediately respond to request for comment. Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray declined to comment. Erin Murphy, a spokesperson for Holcomb, said Holcomb will closely follow the case.
About a week after the ACLU filed this lawsuit on behalf of clinics that provide abortion, the organization filed another lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court on the behalf of five anonymous plaintiffs that argues the new law infringes on individual’s religious rights and violates the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. There’s a hearing on a preliminary injunction in that case Oct. 14.
Follow IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.
Follow Shari Rudavsky on Twitter: @srudavsky.