In a recent ruling, the Indiana Supreme Court has upheld the state’s stringent abortion law, Senate Bill 1 (SB 1). This legislation prohibits abortions with only a few exceptions: rape, incest, lethal fetal anomalies, or if the mother’s life is at risk. Notably, the exceptions for rape and incest are limited to 10 weeks post-fertilization.
The bill was initially passed in August 2022. However, it faced legal challenges soon after. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing several abortion clinics including Planned Parenthood, filed a lawsuit against the bill. Consequently, a county judge temporarily halted the bill’s implementation in September 2022.
The state’s highest court weighed in on June 30, asserting that the abortion restrictions are in line with the state constitution. This decision effectively lifted the previous injunction, setting the stage for SB 1 to be enforced. Despite efforts by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood to request a rehearing, the Supreme Court declined in a 4-1 vote.
The ACLU expressed its disappointment, labeling the decision as a “dark day” for Indiana. They warned of the potential dangers this near-total abortion ban could pose to residents. On the other hand, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita celebrated the ruling, emphasizing the state’s pro-life stance.
Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush, in the order denying the rehearing, mentioned that the plaintiffs did not adequately present their concerns about the law. Justice Christopher Goff, the sole dissenter, highlighted potential gaps in the law, particularly regarding the mental health of the mother.
Indiana’s move to restrict abortions came after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision was overturned. The state’s Governor, Eric Holcomb, remarked that the bill was a culmination of extensive discussions and testimonies, reflecting the state’s stance on this sensitive issue.
The legal challenge to SB 1 also brought up the Indiana Constitution’s Article 1, Section 1, which speaks of residents’ “inalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The plaintiffs argued that this section was violated by SB 1 as it limited a woman’s liberty to decide on her pregnancy. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed, stating that while the section does protect a woman’s right to an abortion in certain circumstances, it doesn’t grant an unrestricted right to abortion.