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Indiana lawmakers gird for potential special session amid Supreme Court leak

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two Democrats in the Indiana Senate on Tuesday said the U.S. Supreme Court could jeopardize a host of rights if it follows through with a draft opinion on abortion.

Politico on Monday night leaked a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which effectively legalized abortion nationwide.

Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the document was authentic but said the court had not yet come to a final decision.

In March, Republican leaders in both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly wrote to Gov. Eric Holcomb asking him to call a special session in the event the high court overturned Roe. House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, echoed those calls in statements responding to the leaked opinion.

Huston said in a statement, “The vast majority of House Republicans, including myself, have been abundantly clear that we want to take action to further protect life should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn, in full or in part, Roe,” while Bray said “A leak on an issue of this magnitude is certainly surprising, but if it is true that this is the direction the Court is headed, it is good news and suggests Indiana will be in a position to improve our record as a strong defender of life.”

Both said them are awaiting the court’s final decision before they decide the legislature’s next steps.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and advocacy organization that supports abortion rights, 22 states either have pre-Roe abortion bans still on the books or have enacted so-called trigger laws that would automatically enact abortion bans if Roe is overturned. Indiana is not among those states.

Indiana Democrats said the ruling could set a host of dangerous precedents.

Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, and Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said the Roe decision influenced a host of other, more recent court rulings that cited the 14th Amendment’s equal justice clause. They said the logic in Alito’s draft opinion could be used to overturn, among other things, the 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling and the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which struck down bans on interracial and same-sex marriage, respectively.

“I think this is the beginning of an undermining of our democracy, of us being a country of privileges, of choice, and it’s one that we should all be very deeply concerned about and speaking out on,” Yoder said.

Taylor said the idea of calling a special legislative session over a court ruling could set a dangerous precedent as well. He said the writers of the Indiana Constitution intended for special sessions to be used for true emergencies, not single policy issues.

“It asks us to come in at a certain period of time to make laws that are germane to the entire state and then go home and be with our constituents and listen to them and talk about their issues,” he said. “Since we have supermajority rule here in Indiana, it’s going to become another way to get different laws changed without having to go through a general session.”

Holcomb has never publicly stated whether or not he would call a special session if Roe is overturned. He said in a statement on Tuesday, “Before further commenting on a leaked draft document out of the Supreme Court, like the rest of the country, I’ll wait to review the official and final decision they release on the matter in the few weeks and months ahead.”