An Indiana judge on Thursday blocked enforcement of the state’s abortion ban, putting the new law on hold because abortion clinic operators argue it violates the state constitution.
Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon issued a preliminary injunction against the ban which came into force a week ago. The injunction was sought by operators of abortion clinics who argued in a lawsuit that the state constitution protected access to the medical procedure.
The ban was approved by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature on August 5 and signed by GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb. This made Indiana the first state to pass stricter abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated federal abortion protections by overturning Roe v. Wade in June.
The judge wrote “there is a reasonable likelihood that this significant restriction on personal autonomy will violate the liberty guarantees of the Indiana Constitution” and that the clinics will prevail in the lawsuit. The order prevents the state from enforcing the ban pending a trial on the merits of the case.
The state attorney general’s office and top Republican legislative leaders did not immediately comment on the order.
The ban, which includes limited exceptions, replaced Indiana laws that generally banned abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and strictly restricted them after the 13th week.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represents abortion clinics, filed a lawsuit Aug. 31 and argued that the ban would “ban the overwhelming majority of abortions in Indiana and, as as such, would have a devastating and irreparable impact on the Complainants. and, most importantly, their patients and customers.
Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, pointed to the state constitution’s bill of rights, including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in plead in court on Monday that it included the right to privacy and to decide whether or not to have children.
The state attorney general’s office said the court should uphold the ban, calling arguments against it based on a ‘new, unwritten, and historically unsupported right to abortion’ in the state constitution. .
“The constitutional text nowhere mentions abortion, and Indiana has prohibited or heavily regulated abortion by law since 1835 – before, during, and after the Indiana Constitution of 1851 was written. debated and ratified,” the office said in a court filing. .
Indiana’s abortion ban includes exceptions allowing abortions for rape and incest, before 10 weeks after fertilization; protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.
The new law also prohibited abortion clinics from providing abortion care, leaving such services only to hospitals or hospital-owned outpatient surgical centers.
The lawsuit was filed in southern Indiana’s Monroe County, which includes the liberal-leaning town of Bloomington and the main campus of Indiana University, but two Democratic judges elected from that county refused to deal with the case without giving reasons.
Hanlon, a Republican from neighboring Owen County, agreed to be appointed as a special judge. Hanlon, who was first elected as a judge in 2014, was among three finalists the state Judicial Nominating Commission selected in July for appointment to the state appeals court, but the governor appointed another judge to the post last week.