the Indiana The Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday that blocks the state from enforcing a Republican-backed abortion ban while it considers whether it violates the state constitution.
The supreme court took up the case after a county judge blocked the ban last month, prompting the attorney general to appeal the decision. The court rejected a request by the state attorney general’s office to vacate the injunction and set a hearing on the lawsuit filed by the abortion clinic operators for January 12.
Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon blocked enforcement of the law, writing that “there is a reasonable likelihood that this significant restriction of personal autonomy will offend the liberty guarantees of the Indiana constitution” and that the clinics will prevail in the demand.
The ban was approved by the Republican-dominated state legislature on August 5 and signed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. That made Indiana the first state to enact tougher abortion restrictions after the US Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protections by overturning Roe v Wade in June.
“After Roe was overturned, I clearly stated that I would be willing to support legislation that would make progress in protecting life,” Holcomb said in August when he passed the ban.
The five-member Supreme Court, all appointed by Republican governors, did not explain its decision.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represents abortion clinics, filed the lawsuit Aug. 31. He argued that the ban “would ban the overwhelming majority of abortions in Indiana and, as such, will have a devastating and irreparable impact on plaintiffs and, more importantly, their patients and clients.”
A joint statement from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers said: “There are 1.5 million people of reproductive age in the state of Indiana, and each of them deserves the right to make their own decisions about their bodies, their families, and their futures.”
Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, referred to the state constitution’s bill of rights, which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” in arguing before the county judge that it included the right to privacy and to making decisions about whether to have children.
The state attorney general’s office said the court should uphold the ban and that the arguments against it are based on a “novel, unwritten and historically unsupported right to abortion” in the state constitution.
The attorney general’s office had asked the supreme court to take up the case, bypassing the typical intermediate step of being considered by the state appeals court.
Neither the ACLU nor the state attorney general’s office immediately commented on the court’s action.
Indiana’s ban was intended to replace state laws that generally prohibited abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and strictly restricted them after the 13th week. The ban includes exceptions that allow abortions in cases of rape and incest, before the 10 weeks after fertilization; protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.
“This bill says that we are only going to grant full constitutional rights to women if their life is threatened or if they are victims of rape. Then those women and girls have only 10 weeks to come to terms with the assault, become pregnant by their assailant, and move on from that trauma,” said Indiana State Senator Shelli Yoder. saying The Guardian last month.
The question of whether the Indiana constitution protects the right to abortion has yet to be decided.