Indiana Superior Court Hearing Challenges State Abortion Ban

INDIANAPOLIS — The fate of Indiana’s Republican-backed abortion ban lies Thursday before the state Supreme Court as it hears arguments on whether it violates privacy protections under the state constitution.

Abortions have been allowed to continue in the state since a county judge blocked enforcement of the law in September, a week after the law passed in August took effect.

Indiana became the first state to enact stricter abortion restrictions after the US Supreme Court removed federal protections by overturning Roe v. Wade in June.

The arguments before Indiana judges come after the superior courts of two other conservative states this month split on similar state constitutional challenges to their abortion bans, with South Carolina’s ban struck down and Idaho’s upheld in the latest examples of the patchwork of state laws now in effect.

Indiana’s ban, which eliminated licenses for all abortion clinics in the state, includes exceptions that allow hospital abortions for rape and incest, no later than 10 weeks after fertilization; protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a lethal abnormality.

Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon, a Republican, blocked enforcement of the Indiana ban in the lawsuit filed by the abortion clinic operators, writing that “there is a reasonable likelihood that this significant restriction on personal autonomy would offend the the Indiana Constitution guarantees freedom” and that the clinics could prevail in the legal challenge.

The five-member Supreme Court, all appointed by Republican governors, is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday morning from the state attorney general’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represents Planned Parenthood and other security operators. abortion clinics defying the ban.

The court does not face a deadline to publish a decision and typically takes several weeks or more before doing so in the cases it hears.

The state attorney general’s office has argued that Indiana had anti-abortion laws when its current constitution was written in 1851 and that the judge’s ruling wrongly created a right to abortion.

“The judiciary has no power to amend the Constitution by decree,” he said in a court filing. “Reading novel ‘rights’ into the Constitution would set the judiciary on a dangerous and unprincipled path destructive to the rule of law.”

Court orders have allowed abortions to continue under previous Indiana laws that generally bar abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and strictly restrict it after the 13th week.

The ACLU said the clinics were not arguing that the state could not regulate abortion at all, but believed that the ban violated “basic constitutional rights of privacy and bodily autonomy.”

“Under the extremely limited exceptions (of the ban), only a small fraction of Hoosiers can access vital health care and only if they have suffered rape, incest, or certain serious medical threats,” ACLU attorneys said in a filing. judicial. “Even then, countless logistical obstacles would prevent eligible Hoosiers from getting abortions.”

The question of whether the Indiana constitution protects the right to abortion has yet to be decided. A state appeals court ruled in 2004 that privacy is a core value under the state constitution that extends to all residents, including women seeking an abortion.

But the Indiana Supreme Court later upheld a law requiring an 18-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion without addressing whether the state constitution includes the right to privacy or abortion.

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