Courts asked to reinstate blocked Indiana anti-abortion laws

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s attorney general is asking federal judges to lift orders blocking several state anti-abortion laws following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to end constitutional protection for abortion.

An appeal of one of those blocked Indiana laws aimed at prohibiting abortions based on gender, race or disability was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019. But that was before former President Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett strengthened the court’s conservative majority.

Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office asked in court filings Monday that federal judges lift injunctions against that law, along with others banning a common second-trimester abortion procedure that the legislation calls a “dismemberment abortion” and requiring parents be notified if a court allows a girl younger than 18 to get abortion without parental consent.

The office argued that after last week’s Supreme Court ruling those challenging the laws “can claim no constitutional right to an abortion.”

The Indianapolis-based federal courts didn’t immediately take action on the state attorney general’s office filings, which sought “prompt consideration” from the judges.

Mike Fichter, Indiana Right to Life president and chief executive officer, signaled support for the attorney general’s requests.

“Today’s action demonstrates that our Indiana leaders realize every life has value, and everyone deserves to be born,” Fichter said in a statement Monday.

Daniel Conkle, professor emeritus at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, said it would be difficult for groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which initially challenged these laws, to halt the injunctions from being lifted.

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization court opinion explicitly says states have a “legitimate interest” in eliminating “particularly gruesome or barbaric medical procedures,” for which “dismemberment abortions” under Indiana law qualify, as well as in preventing abortions based on “discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability.” These provisions make Rokita’s requests more likely to be approved, Conkle said.

The ACLU of Indiana said Tuesday it was reviewing the filings and declined additional comment.

Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature is expected to consider tightening the state’s abortion restrictions during a special legislative session scheduled to begin July 6 and last up to 40 days. Legislative leaders have not yet said what abortion restrictions might advance in the special session.

Conkle said he was not sure if the Legislature would ban abortion without exceptions, including abortions on the basis of gender, race or disability; for rape and incest; or for medical emergencies.

“I think the two key things are, you know, number one, what will be the point in pregnancy at which any new abortion prohibition would kick in? And number two, what exceptions will be recognized?” Conkle told the Associated Press. “If the abortion is necessary to prevent a substantial, permanent impairment of the life or physical health of the woman, one could imagine an exception like that being built into any new abortion prohibition.” ___

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 Arleigh Rodgers on Twitter.

Arleigh Rodgers
Arleigh Rodgers
Indiana statehouse and education reporter