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Judge weighs religious freedom against Indiana’s near-total abortion ban

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The latest question surrounding Indiana’s new abortion law: Does it violate the religious freedom of some Indiana women?

A Marion County judge will have to settle that legal fight following a hearing Friday. The judge isn’t expected to issue a ruling for at least a month. 

This case would have no direct impact on the current injunction that’s put a hold on Indiana’s near-total abortion ban, which first took effect Sept. 15.

Tom Fisher from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office said, “I think just because a law happens to be consistent with some religious teachings doesn’t make it a religious law.”

The five women in the lawsuit have chosen to remain anonymous. In the court filings, they say that the state government is apparently under the impression that Indiana’s near-total ban on abortion, including religion-mandated abortions, only affects women once they are pregnant and wish to terminate a pregnancy. These women also say their religion believes that if a pregnancy has a negative impact on their emotional or physical health, they are required to terminate, and they argue the new ban violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law is sometimes referred to as RFRA.

Ken Faulk of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said, “It is asking that another exception be carved out of the law for persons that have sincere religious beliefs.”

In the court filing, the women say they have altered their behavior to minimize or eliminate the chance of getting pregnant. They fear, under Indiana’s new abortion law, that should they need to terminate a pregnancy as required by their religious beliefs, they wouldn’t legally be allowed to do so.  

Fisher said, “Religious liberty is important; let’s bare that in mind, but so is protecting the life of the unborn, and the reason the General Assembly enacted RFRA the way it did is for laws like this.”

A special judge has already blocked enforcement of the abortion ban. This lawsuit could potentially draw a line in the sand for complete religious freedom.

Jody Maderia of Indiana University’s School of Law in Bloomington told News 8, “But, we have very ardent Muslim and Jewish contentions principals that state life begins at much later than fertilization.”