INDIANAPOLIS – An Indiana judge on Thursday blocked enforcement of the state’s ab*rtion ban, suspending the new law as ab*rtion clinic operators say it violates the state’s constitution.
County Judge Owen Kelsey Hanlon issued an interim injunction against the ban that went into effect a week ago. The ab*rtion clinic operators applied for the warrant and argued in the lawsuit that the state constitution protects access to medical procedures.
The ban was approved by the Republican-dominated state legislature on August 5 and signed by GOP governor Eric Holcomb. This made Indiana the first state to introduce stricter ab*rtion restrictions since the US Supreme Court eliminated federal ab*rtion protection by annulling Roe v. Wade in June.
The judge wrote, “there is a reasonable likelihood that this significant restriction of personal autonomy violates the guarantees of liberty enshrined in the Indiana Constitution,” and that clinics will win the trial. The order prevents the state from enforcing the order pending trial on the merits of the lawsuit.
The state’s attorney general’s office and top Republican legislative leaders did not immediately comment on the injunction.
The ban, which includes some exceptions, superseded Indiana’s law, which generally prohibited ab*rtions after 20 weeks gestation and strictly limited them after 13 weeks.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represents ab*rtion clinics, filed a lawsuit on August 31 and argued that the ban “would prohibit the vast majority of ab*rtions in Indiana and as such would have a devastating and irreversible impact on plaintiffs and, more importantly, their patients and clients. “
Ken Falk, the ACLU’s chief legal officer of Indiana, pointed to the state’s declaration of rights, including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” arguing to a judge on Monday that it includes the right to privacy and the right to decide whether to have children.
The state’s attorney general’s office said the court should uphold the ban, arguing against it based on a “new, unwritten, historically unproven right to ab*rtion” in the state’s constitution.
“The constitutional text nowhere mentions ab*rtion, and Indiana has banned or strictly regulated ab*rtion by law since 1835 – before, during and after the Indiana Constitution of 1851 was drawn up, discussed and ratified,” the office said in a court application . .
The ab*rtion ban in Indiana includes exceptions allowing ab*rtions in cases of rape and incest before 10 weeks after conception; protect the mother’s life and physical health; and if the fetus is diagnosed with a fatal anomaly.
The new law also prohibited ab*rtion clinics from providing any kind of ab*rtion care, leaving such services only to hospitals or hospital-owned outpatient surgical centers.
The lawsuit was filed in Monroe County in southern Indiana, which includes the liberal city of Bloomington and the main Indiana University campus, but two elected Democratic judges from that county declined to hear the case without giving reasons.
Hanlon, a Republican from neighboring Owen County, accepted the appointment as special judge. Hanlon, who was first elected judge in 2014, was one of three finalists selected by the National Judicial Appeal Commission for the state court of appeal in July, but the governor last week appointed another judge to the position.
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