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US Supreme Court turns away challenge to Indiana law requiring abortion clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains

by | May 1, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the leaked draft opinion signaling  what the Supreme Court intended to do with Roe v. Wade: overturn it, as the justices did June 24 in  Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Every since, the courts and the state legislatures have rendered opinions on every dimension of the abortion issue.

Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, turning away a challenge from an Indianapolis abortion clinic and two women. The plaintiffs argued that a law requiring abortion providers to bury or cremate embryonic or fetal remains “unconstitutionally compelled them to express the state’s message that an embryo or fetus is a person and ran afoul of their moral or religious beliefs by treating embryonic tissue in the same manner as the remains of a deceased person,” according to Reuters’ Andrew Chung.

Not so, said Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. Rokita maintained in court filings that the 2016 law aimed to ensure the “respectful disposition of human remains.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Young thought otherwise. He “found that the provision violated the challengers’ religious freedom and free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment,” reported Chung. But last year the 7th Circuit overturned Judge Young, refuted the notion that Indiana’s burial-or-cremation requirement jeopardizes anyone’s First Amendment liberties.

“A moral objection to one potential implication of the way medical providers handle fetal remains,” the court’s opinion states, “is some distance from a contention that the state compels any woman to violate her own religious tenets.”

In 2019, in a separate but similar challenge, the Supreme Court upheld the law. They held “that the state had a legitimate interest in ensuring proper disposal of fetal remains and that it did not endanger the ability of women to obtain an abortion,” the Associated Press reported.

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