On Friday, the Supreme Court of Indiana issued a verdict that paved the door for a statewide ban on abortions in Indiana.
The state’s highest court ruled that women have a constitutionally protected right to abortion “up to the point where it becomes necessary to protect a woman’s life or health,” but that this right does not extend to all circumstances.
After the Supreme Court invalidated Roe v. Wade under the U.S. Constitution in August, the Republican-controlled legislature of the state approved a near-total ban on abortion. This ruling lifts the interim injunction on this prohibition.
Similar challenges to abortion laws have been brought in other states since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, with abortion-rights organisations asserting that other articles in state constitutions safeguard a right to abortion, as has been done in Indiana.
In its conclusion, the Indiana Supreme Court said that it was seeking to find a way to reconcile the “two irreconcilable interests” of a pregnant woman’s right to choose abortion and the state’s duty to safeguard the life of an unborn child.
The coalition of providers and abortion-rights groups that brought the suit, which included Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was “devastated” by the ruling and argued that it would deny “essential health care” to 1.5 million people in Indiana, particularly the poor and others who face additional obstacles when trying to obtain medical treatment.
Abortion is illegal under state law unless the mother’s life or health is in danger, the foetus has a fatal anomaly, or it is performed within 10 weeks after fertilisation.
It also restricts abortions to certain hospitals, making it illegal to operate abortion clinics. Abortion doctors who violate the law may face up to six years in jail and a fine of $10,000.
Since abortion was allowed up to week 22 of pregnancy in Indiana as long as the ban was blocked, the state played a crucial role in providing access to abortion for women in neighbouring states who imposed almost comprehensive bans. Last summer, a ten-year-old rape victim from Ohio, where abortion is illegal, travelled to Indiana in search of an abortion, catapulting the state into the national spotlight.
On August 1st, when the ban is set to go into force in Indiana, a loophole was created by the court’s decision: A related complaint claims the prohibition is unconstitutional under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015 since certain faiths do not prohibit abortion. In December, a court temporarily blocked the prohibition until a hearing in September. There will be no consequences for individuals who claim the abortion ban violates their religious freedom until that time comes.
On Friday, four of the state’s five judges voted to uphold the ban, citing Indiana’s long history of anti-abortion legislation as justification for doing so. This trend was broken “under protest” in 1973 when Roe v. Wade ruled that states could not prohibit abortion until the third trimester, and even then only in certain situations.
Justice Goff wrote a dissenting opinion in which he claimed that the people of Indiana should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not abortion should be permitted.
In accordance with national trends, 61% of Indiana residents in a December survey by the Public Religion Research Institute said abortion should be allowed in all or most situations, while 10% said it should be outlawed in all cases.