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Divided Indiana Supreme Court clears way for near-total abortion ban

Indiana abortion ban takes effect – News 8 coverage at 10 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Supreme Court cleared the way for Indiana’s near-total ban on abortion to take effect.

The state’s highest court announced Monday it had denied a rehearing on its June 30 decision on Indiana’s new abortion restrictions.

The vote was 4-1.

The Supreme Court’s decision means a state appeals court can now certify the decision, allowing the new law to take effect almost immediately.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in June recognized for the first time a right under the Indiana Constitution for a woman to terminate a pregnancy to save her life or protect her health.

Two of the five justices expressed concerns about whether the new law violates that right, and the law’s impact on Indiana women.

Justice David Goff, the lone vote to grant a rehearing, said SB1 fails to consider certain “serious health” conditions and called on lawmakers to address those concerns.

“No one yet knows the precise contours of the life and heath protections guaranteed by the Indiana Constitution,” Justice Goff wrote in his dissenting opinion. “But, for the sake of the lives and health of Hoosier women, our healthcare professionals and our justice system need to know as quickly as possible. Having declared the right of a woman to protect her health, this Court should not now let that right go unprotected.”

Chief Justice Loretta Rush, who voted to allow the ban to take effect, echoed the same concerns.

“Given that possibility, I am deeply concerned about Senate Bill 1’s impact on Hoosier women’s constitutional right to seek medical care that is necessary to protect their life or to protect them from a serious health risk,” Chief Justice Rush wrote. “And I am likewise concerned about the law’s impact on healthcare providers who must determine whether to provide that care and potentially expose themselves to criminal penalties and professional sanctions.”

The chief justice also argued the plaintiffs had not properly presented those concerns to the justices.

The three remaining Supreme Court justices did not write opinions on the denial of rehearing.

The law completely bans abortion in the state of Indiana with three exceptions.

The first exception allows any woman up to 10 weeks into pregnancy in cases of rape or incest to have the procedure. The second allows any woman up to 20 weeks into pregnancy in cases of fatal fetal anomalies to have the procedure. The third exception allows the procedure in the case it prevents the mother’s death.

In July, Planned Parenthood announced it was no longer taking appointments for abortion services in the state.

At the time, they said services were ending because they had reached maximum capacity for patients trying to receive care ahead of the expected limited-exception abortion ban.

They have continued to provide other reproductive healthcare options, including pregnancy evaluation, wellness exams, and birth control.

Jim Bopp, general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, praised the court’s order to let the law take effect. He said the role of government is to protect life and the law’s exceptions reflect what most Indiana voters want. Bopp called the ongoing lawsuits against the law examples of creative lawyering.

“For almost 150 years, we protected the unborn from abortion except to save the life of the mother,” he said, referring to Indiana’s laws prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. “So we have vast experience with this and it does not jeopardize women’s health as they are inventing this theory.”

Monday’s move lifted a lower court’s order blocking the law while a lawsuit on privacy grounds works its way through the courts. The privacy lawsuit itself has yet to go to trial. A separate lawsuit challenging the ban through the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is also still pending. That lawsuit is currently scheduled to go before the Indiana Court of Appeals on Sept. 12.

Katie Blair, the ACLU of Indiana’s director of advocacy and public policy, said her organization will continue to fight the new law in court. In the meantime, she said anyone who needs abortion services should talk to their doctor to find out whether they qualify for one of the law’s narrow exceptions.

“With this ban going into effect, women who need to seek abortion care are forced to flee their communities and flee the state to access that care if they have the means to do so,” she said. “And if they don’t have those means, then they’re being forced to carry a pregnancy against their will.”