A new abortion ban in the state of Indiana has recently taken effect after a long battle in both the courts and public opinion. The law, titled Senate Bill 1, has been estimated to have the potential of saving 9,000 preborn lives per year. However, the passing of this bill has been the object of months long conflict since it was passed in August of 2022.
After Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, Indiana was the first state to pass a law of its nature. SB 1 prohibits abortion in most cases but allows for three exceptions: (1) if serious health risk is posed to the mother, (2) if the baby is conceived in rape or incest, and (3) if the unborn child is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly or condition. This law also requires that abortion be committed only in hospitals or surgical centers rather than in standalone abortion facilities.
Though the listed exceptions are not necessary to protect mothers, nor are they in tune with recognizing the complete human rights of the preborn, this law is certainly a step in the right direction, evidenced by the pro-choice side’s reaction to it. The Indiana Legislature passed the law in August of last year, but resistance immediately gathered. Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the state. Ruling in favor of these groups, the law was blocked by Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon. It had only been in effect for a week.
In the ruling, Hanlon explained that there is ‘reasonable likelihood’ that abortion is protected under the Indiana constitution, though abortion was illegal when it was written. The state’s solicitor general, Tom Fisher, disagreed and said that, “…history forecloses any legitimate claim to a right to have an abortion under the Indiana Constitution.” The ramifications of this decision soon followed, as once-closed abortion clinics prepared for reopening. The Women’s Med Center in the state planned to begin committing abortions once again just a day after Hanlon’s ruling. Abortion was once again available until 20 weeks post fertilization upon the blocking of the law.
State Attorney General Todd Rokita requested that the Supreme Court take up the case directly, bypassing the intermediary appeals court, but the Court issued an order on October 12 for the continual of the block. A hearing on the lawsuit against SB 1 was planned to be conducted on January 12. In response, Indiana Right to Life CEO Mike Fichter said that, “Although we are confident the law will be upheld, it will be far too late for those whose lives will be lost as this is argued in the courts.”
Another lawsuit was filed against the state of Indiana soon after the first one. The ACLU, acting on behalf of five anonymous residents and the Hoosier Jews for Choice group, filed the lawsuit, claiming that the pro-life law violates religious freedom. The group maintained that the law violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which, “…prevents the government from impeding someone’s religious exercise unless there’s a strong argument in favor of the state’s interest.” The claim against the law was that not all religions hold to the truth that life begins at the moment of conception. Jewish, Islamic, Episcopal, and Pagan faiths are cited as holding pro-choice theological teachings in the lawsuit. Though it was not cited, the Satanic Temple also sued Indiana on the basis of religious freedom. The Temple has called abortion a ‘religious rite’ in their organization.
However, the pro-life ideology is built on science and cannot be denied solely based on personal beliefs. Science is clear that a unique human life is created at the moment of conception and, as Frank Pavone wrote in his book Abolishing Abortion, “While we are free to believe whatever we want, there are limits to how far we can go in acting on those beliefs…we cannot use the freedom to believe as a rationale to commit violence…Abortion supporters are free to believe anything they want about the presence or the absence of a soul, but we do not want them to legislate their beliefs into a license to kill. Abortion is finally about bloodshed, not beliefs; about victims, not viewpoints.” Not to mention that many Jewish people that the lawsuit claimed to stand for actually do not agree with a pro-choice interpretation of their theological beliefs.
Unfortunately, in response to this second lawsuit, yet another injunction was issued by Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch in December of 2022. Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana Legal Director, triumphantly stated that, “Abortion is legal in Indiana today. This preliminary injunction acts as a second layer of protection, ensuring the rights of Hoosiers on the grounds of religious freedom. This decision represents another crucial victory for abortion access, and we will continue to fight this ban until it is blocked for good.”
On June 30th, the Supreme Court reversed the first injunction filed against SB 1, ruling that the law can stand in the state of Indiana and that it doesn’t violate the constitution. Mike Fichter responded by saying that, “Indiana’s unborn babies are the victors in today’s ruling,” and that the court’s decision, “…sends a message to the rest of the nation that when we stand together with love and compassion in protecting unborn babies and supporting pregnant mothers, we save lives, improve lives, and support a national culture that values life.“
The law was expected to take effect on August 1, but yet again, the ACLU of Indiana asked the state Supreme Court to rehear the case, blocking it once more. The organization was hopeful that the injunction would last another 60-90 days.
On August 21, the Indiana Supreme Court voted 4-1 to deny the request made by the ACLU. “This means the pro-life law, which protects nearly all preborn babies from abortion will take effect immediately upon the certification of the ruling,” reports Live Action News. After a great amount of effort, tears, and hard work from the pro-life community, the bill is finally a part of certified Indiana law.
Voices for Life Executive Director Melanie Lyon stated in a press release that, “We are celebrating the thousands of children and families who will be spared the violence of abortion because of this legislation. We have been preparing for this day for the past year. Our staff and 100+ volunteers are ready to aggressively tackle this next phase of the fight for life in Indiana by continuing to hold abortionists accountable for illegal activity and removing the demand for abortion through our sidewalk advocacy and door to door outreach programs.”
Under this law, approximately 9,000 preborn children a year, or 161 a day, are expected to be saved from abortion. This pro-life victory serves as a sign that our work throughout the United States is not a lost cause. Lives are being saved. Let us be encouraged and spurred on toward gaining full protection for the preborn in Indiana and across the country!