Indiana near-total abortion ban on hold for now as ACLU files petition to state supreme court

Indiana abortion law was scheduled to take effect Tuesday

Tuesday, August 1, 2023
ACLU challenges puts Indiana's near-total abortion ban on hold for now
An Indiana abortion ban was scheduled to take effect Tuesday, but the ACLU has asked the state's high court to put it on hold.

INDIANAPOLIS (WLS) -- Indiana's near-total ban on abortion is on hold after a late filing by the ACLU of Indiana Monday night.

Almost all abortions in Indiana were set to be outlawed Tuesday with few exceptions. As a result, facilities that provided abortion care in Indiana stopped making appointments.

The ACLU of Indiana asked the state's high court to keep the ban on hold while it considers challenges to the new law. That means the ban will be delayed while the court considers the matter.

Click here to read the full petition for rehearing

Indiana's near total ban on abortions include exceptions for rape, incest, the need to save the mother's life or if the fetus has a deadly abnormality.

The group specifically wants the state's Supreme Court to rehear arguments about the medical exceptions under which women can still get abortions.

"We believe that the facts will demonstrate that that health exception is far too narrow, and then there are many circumstances in which an abortion would be required medically, but are not covered by that very narrow exception," said Stevie Pactor of ACLU of Indiana.

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ABC7 Legal analyst Gil Soffer says this will be an uphill battle for ACLU of Indiana and Planned Parenthood.

"Any petition for a re-hearing is by definition an uphill battle," Soffer said. "A decision has already been reached, so the petition seeking a re-hearing has to make a strong case why it was wrong, what new facts or theories were not considered previously."

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The Indiana Attorney General's Office released a statement, saying, "On the eve of Indiana's pro-life law going into effect, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood made a desperate attempt to prevent Indiana from enforcing our own law. We responded to this filing immediately and are now waiting for the Court to rule. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have made their intentions clear - this is just another grab for fundraising dollars."

The ACLU of Indiana's request comes after the high court ruled on June 30 that Indiana's Republican-backed ban doesn't violate the state constitution.

The ACLU of Indiana, representing Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinic operators, had challenged the constitutionality of the ban. A county judge later ruled that the ban likely violated the state constitution's privacy protections.

But in its June ruling, the high court struck down the county judge's injunction that has blocked a 2022 law's restrictions banning the vast majority of abortions in the state since September.

In its decision, the court said that while the state constitution's liberty clause "protects a woman's right to an abortion that is necessary to protect her life or to protect her from a serious health risk, the provision does not protect a fundamental right to abortion in all circumstances."

An exemption under the ban states that it is limited to circumstances in which an abortion is necessary "to prevent death or a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function."

In Monday's petition for rehearing, the ACLU of Indiana wrote that the high court's ruling had "left open the possibility that this constitutionally protected right 'may be broader than the current statutory exception.'"

Gavin Rose, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Indiana, said the group is asking the high court to pause its order striking down the trial court's preliminary injunction to give it time to file a motion with the trial court seeking "a more limited injunction targeted to the breadth of the serious health risk exemption."

The rehearing petition suggests that the court keep the previous injunction on hold for 60 to 90 days.

The ACLU of Indiana filed its petition for a rehearing on behalf of abortion providers hours before Monday's deadline for it to do so.

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of the Planned Parenthood division that includes Indiana, said in a statement about the rehearing request that the state's ban "will prevent pregnant Hoosiers from making decisions about their own bodies, and prevent their providers from giving them the care they need."

Following the court's June ruling, Indiana's abortion ban was expected to take effect as soon as Tuesday - or within days afterward once the ruling is certified and entered into the court docket - if no party sought a review by Monday's deadline.

Now that the ACLU of Indiana has filed a petition for review, that means the court's decision cannot be certified while the justices consider whether to grant or deny that petition, "thus considering the case or disposing of the rehearing petition," said Kathryn Dolan, a court spokesperson.

It's unclear how long it may take the high court to decide the matter, but after rehearing petitions are filed, the opposing party - in this case the state's attorneys - have 15 days to file a response to that request.

Meanwhile Governor JB Pritzker launched several new initiatives Monday to make abortions more accessible here in Illinois.

"We've made investments to try to prepare for the influx of people coming from out of state and of course our surrounding states are where the majority of those people are coming from," Governor Pritzker said.

One of the new initiatives Pritzker introduced is aimed at helping women who have complex medical conditions get the specialized care they need.

Demand for abortion services are on the rise in Illinois since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

"The number of our state patients in our facility has doubled in the past year, and now comprises 1/3 of all patients we care for seeking abortion," said Dr. Allison Cowett, medical director of Family Planning Associates.

"What we're seeing is Planned Parenthood of Illinois is already seeing an increase in patients from Indiana for actually weeks now. Patients from Indiana have started booking through our contact center and working with our patient navigators to seek care in Illinois," said Kristen Schultz of Planned Parenthood of Illinois

Governor Pritzker said he expects abortion to be a major issue once again in the next election cycle. But he said the initiatives he announced are not driven by politics.

Current Indiana laws generally prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and tightly restrict it after the 13th week.

Indiana's abortion ban also faces a separate court challenge over claims it violates the state's 2015 religious freedom law signed by GOP then-Gov. Mike Pence. The state's intermediate Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in that case Dec. 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.