Judge gauges if Indiana abortion ban defies religious rights

Oct 14, 2022, 9:26 AM | Updated: 9:51 am
Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director, speaks with reporters Oct. 14, 2022, in Indianapolis afte...

Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director, speaks with reporters Oct. 14, 2022, in Indianapolis after arguing before a Marion County judge over claims the state's abortion ban violates plaintiff's religious freedoms. (AP Photo/Arleigh Rodgers)

(AP Photo/Arleigh Rodgers)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A top Indiana lawyer on Friday questioned the validity of a lawsuit brought by a group of residents who argue that the state’s abortion ban violates their religious freedoms.

A judge heard arguments Friday for about an hour in an Indianapolis courtroom, spurred by claims from five anonymous residents — who hold Jewish, Muslim and spiritual faiths — and the group Hoosier Jews for Choice. They argue the ban — which is currently blocked due to a separate lawsuit — violates their religious rights regarding when they believe abortion is acceptable.

The lawsuit says the ban violates the Jewish teaching that “a fetus attains the status of a living person only at birth” and that “Jewish law stresses the necessity of protecting the life and physical and mental health of the mother prior to birth.” It also cites theological teachings allowing abortion in at least some circumstances by Islamic, Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist and pagan faiths.

“The state simply cannot decree what is religious and what is secular,” Ken Falk, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana’s legal director, said Friday.

Filed in Marion County court, the religious freedom lawsuit is the second of two challenges against the ban filed by the ACLU. It cites a state law that then-Gov. Mike Pence signed in 2015 to prohibit any laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow their religious beliefs. Critics have decried the Republican-backed measure as a thinly disguised attempt to permit discrimination against gay people.

In response to the religious freedom complaint, the state attorney general’s office said the anonymous stories cited in the lawsuit are too abstract to be analyzed, adding that “their asserted harms regarding changes to their contraceptive and sexual practices do not outweigh the grave consequences of killing an unborn child.”

Solicitor General Thomas Fisher reiterated that argument on Friday, when he maintained the anonymous plaintiffs’ “hypothetical” reasons for an abortion do not meet the religious freedom law’s “case-specific, factual inquiry” requirement.

“We’re not in the moment when the abortion is becoming part of the religious exercise, if ever it does,” Fisher said.

Marion County Judge Heather Welch said both sides must submit additional written arguments by Oct. 28 and she will make her decision within 30 days after that.

The ACLU’s other lawsuit revolves around claims that the ban violates the state’s constitution, something the Indiana Supreme Court said Wednesday it would consider next year.

The high court took over appeals of a judge’s decision in September that blocked the ban a week after it took effect and denied a request from the state to set aside the temporary block. A scheduled hearing on the lawsuit, filed in August by abortion clinic operators, is set for Jan. 12.

Because the state Supreme Court is considering the other case, Fisher said issuing a preliminary injunction for the religious freedom one would have “symbolic significance” only.

“Symbolic rulings are not the role of the court,” Fisher, a top deputy to Republican Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, said Friday.

Falk, however, told reporters after the hearing that having a second preliminary injunction against the ban creates more certainty, especially because the lawsuits deal with separate aspects of the law.

The abortion ban, which includes narrow exceptions, was approved by the state’s GOP-dominated Legislature on Aug. 5 and signed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. That made Indiana the first state to enact tighter abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated federal abortion protections by overturning Roe v. Wade in June.

No faith is monolithic on the abortion issue. Yet many followers of faiths that do not prohibit abortion have lamented that tighter abortion laws could supersede their individual rights and religious beliefs, such as the position of Judaism as outlined in the lawsuit.

Similar lawsuits have been filed elsewhere recently, including in Kentucky and in Florida, where a synagogue in June argued that the state’s abortion restrictions violates the religious freedom rights of Jews.

___

Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/arleighrodgers

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A worker in protective suit walks through the caution tapes along metal barricades retail sh...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Why are China’s COVID rules so strict?

BEIJING (AP) — At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China set out its “zero-COVID” measures that were harsh, but not out of line with what many other countries were doing to try and contain the virus. While most other nations saw the health and safety regulations as temporary until vaccines were widely available, however, […]
5 hours ago
In this photo provided by Fidelity Charitable, Fidelity Charitable President Jacob Pruitt is photog...
Associated Press

Fidelity Charitable: New grants to surpass deposits in 2022

Fidelity Charitable, the nation’s largest grantmaker, expects 2022 will be the first year since 2018 that the value of grants from its donor advised funds exceeds the value of investments going into the funds. Jacob Pruitt, Fidelity Charitable’s president, told The Associated Press that donations this year are on track to set a record, even […]
5 hours ago
A migrant laborer paints The Pearl Monument, a sculpture depicting an open oyster shell with runnin...
Associated Press

Qatar says worker deaths for World Cup ‘between 400 and 500’

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — A top Qatari official involved in the country’s World Cup organization has put the number of worker deaths for the tournament “between 400 and 500” for the first time, a drastically higher number than any other previously offered by Doha. The comment by Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee […]
5 hours ago
President Joe Biden gestures boarding Air Force One at Nantucket Memorial Airport in Nantucket, Mas...
Associated Press

Biden to visit Michigan computer chip factory, push agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — The midterm elections may be over, but President Joe Biden is staying on the road to push his economic agenda. He’s visiting Bay City, Michigan, on Tuesday to highlight a $300 million expansion of a semiconductor manufacturing plant. The facility, run by the South Korean company SK Siltron, is expected to quadruple […]
5 hours ago
FILE - Britain's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Michelle Donelan leaves a...
Associated Press

UK waters down internet rules plan after free speech outcry

LONDON (AP) — The British government has abandoned a plan to force tech firms to remove internet content that is harmful but legal, after the proposal drew strong criticism from lawmakers and civil liberties groups. The U.K. on Tuesday defended its decision to water down the Online Safety Bill, an ambitious but controversial attempt to […]
5 hours ago
Associated Press

Trial starts in Norway for Putin ally’s son who flew drone

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The son of a Russian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin denied any wrongdoing Tuesday at the start of his trial in northern Norway where he is accused of violating a law that bars Russians from flying drones. Andrey Yakunin who holds both a Russian and British passport, was arrested in […]
5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Judge gauges if Indiana abortion ban defies religious rights