NRL News

Indiana Supreme Court overturns judge’s decision, rules new abortion law does not violate state Constitution

by | Jun 30, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

This morning the Indiana Supreme Court vacated a temporary injunction issued by Judge Kelsey B. Hanlon against Senate Enrolled Act 1, ruling that the state’s new comprehensive pro-life law does not violate the state constitution.

“The court’s decision overturns a county judge’s ruling that the ban likely violates the state constitution’s privacy protections, which she said are stronger than those found in the U.S. Constitution,” reported The Associated Press’s Tom Davies. “That judge’s order has allowed abortions to continue in Indiana since September, despite the ban.”

The Indiana legislature was the first to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe. Senate Bill 1, signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in August, allows abortions only in cases of rape or incest, when there’s a serious risk to the life of the mother or when fatal fetal anomalies are present. 

Justice Derek R. Molter wrote that the state’s constitution “protects a woman’s right to an abortion that is necessary to protect her life or to protect her from a serious health risk, but the General Assembly otherwise retains broad legislative discretion for determining whether and the extent to which to prohibit abortions.”

The plaintiffs — “which included Planned Parenthood and multiple other health care providers — unsuccessfully brought a ‘facial’ challenge to the entire law, alleging that the abortion ban is always unconstitutional and should therefore be voided,” Casey Smith of the Indiana Capital Chronicle reported. “The state Supreme Court said the providers ‘cannot show a reasonable likelihood of success’ with that challenge, however.”

The court’s decision strikes down the injunction blocking the ban, Davies wrote, but “it wasn’t immediately clear how soon the ban would take effect. The justices returned the case to the county judge for further action.”

Meanwhile there is a second separate challenge to Indiana’s Senate Bill 1 from litigants who claim it infringed on their right to exercise their religion under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). That challenge was upheld in December by Marion County Judge Heather Welch who also put an injunction on the law.

Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office “is appealing the RFRA lawsuit decision,” according to the Indianapolis Star. “It was recently given class action status, meaning if plaintiffs win the near-total abortion ban would no longer apply to Hoosiers whose religion permits abortion under the circumstances outlawed by Senate Bill 1.”