Indiana Judges Consider Abortion; Lawyers “hopeful”

Abortion advocates on Thursday called hearings in the Indiana Supreme Court for an injunction stopping the state’s restrictive abortion law “promising.”

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana and Kentucky, said she is grateful for the argument presented in court today.

“I’m very confident that we will prevail,” said Gibron.

Representatives from Lake County Right for Life, which has half-day office hours, could not be reached Thursday. Porter County Right to Life did not respond to a request for comment by the deadline.

The five-member Supreme Court, all appointed by Republican governors, on Thursday heard arguments from prosecutors and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represents Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinic operators challenging the ban.

“What I’m seeing right now outside the courtroom is a lot of advocates for access to abortion treatment for Hoosiers,” Gibron said.

Protesters gather at the corner of Courthouse Square in Crown Point on Monday, June 27, 2022 for a rally in support of abortion rights.  (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune)

Indiana was the first state to enact stricter abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court removed federal protection by overturning Roe v. Wade lifted in June.

Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon, a Republican, blocked enforcement of Indiana’s ban in September a week after it went into effect, after ruling that there was a “reasonable likelihood” that the lawsuit filed by abortion clinics would prevail in the legal challenge would. Since Hanlon’s ruling, abortions have been allowed to continue in the state.

Gibron said Planned Parenthood does not support any type of abortion ban, restricts access, but will comply with the law if the restraining order is lifted.

“We will not turn our backs on our patients like the anti-abortion extremists we have in the state. Our doors remain open,” Gibron said. The agency will continue to support Hoosier women to get the reproductive health care they seek, even if it means facilitating out-of-state care.

“I think any day that abortion is available to patients in Indiana is a good day. We will continue to focus on our patients and ensure our access to care,” she said.

Gibron has been with the movement for 26 years.

“I never really thought we were going to have this moment in this country,” Gibron said. Dobbs has created a national public health crisis, affecting 26 million women in states where abortion is illegal.

“We need to think about the future of the fight to restore access to abortion, not just in the state of Indiana but across the country,” Gibron said. Anti-abortion activists have played the long game since Roe v. Wade was decided in the 1970s. She said it was time for the abortion rights movement to do the same.

Statistics show that 71% of Hoosiers support access to abortion care in Indiana and Planned Parenthood will continue the fight and remain open to its patients.

“We need to be just as diligent in reversing that decision and restoring access to abortion care, not taking 50 years to do it,” Gibron said. “We will not give up our fight to restore essential health care to the state of Indiana.”

Julie Storbeck, President of the Northwest Indiana National Organization for Women and Indiana NOW, speaks during a protest at the Porter County Courthouse in Valparaiso, Indiana, Friday, June 24, 2022. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court announced the overturning of Roe v.  Wade on.  (Andy Lavalley for the Post-Tribune)

Julie Storbeck, president of Northwest Indiana NOW, said abortion is a health care and access to care is a right.

“We’re trying to promote the idea of ​​reproductive rights, more than just abortion rights. It has to do with people being able to own their own bodies,” Storbeck said.

Every gender needs reproductive health care. If there are people trying to take that away, the organization is there to fight it.

NOW, as an organization, views women’s rights holistically in terms of racial, reproductive and economic justice, LBGQT equality and ending violence against women. She said anti-abortion lawmakers think exceptions for rape or incest somehow don’t make the law a violation of fundamental rights.

“Why does a woman’s body have to have already been violated by someone else before she is allowed autonomy. It’s just an amazing attitude that pervades, the fact that we are cattle, that our bodies belong to men,” Storbeck said.

Storbeck said she did not want to speculate on the outcome of Thursday’s hearing, but hoped the panel would listen with an open mind and listen to the argument.

“I know it won’t be a hit either way. I think the case has some value,” she said.

It is not known when the court could reach a verdict.

Both sides presented their arguments during the hour-long hearing.

Indiana Attorney General Tom Fisher said that liberty, as defined in the Indiana Constitution, “does not mean abortion.”

Roe v. Wade was “federal justice micromanagement” while the Dobbs decision “restored” the right to restrict abortion to the state with narrow exceptions.

It “would just bring things back to where they were before Roe,” he said.

A vehicle strewn with anti-abortion signs drives past a rally in support of abortion rights in Valparaiso on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.  (Kyle Telechan for the Post-Tribune)

Chief Justice Loretta Rush appeared to object to the reach of Fisher’s argument, saying they were only there to review the injunction that temporarily halted what lawmakers had passed this summer.

Fisher countered that he believed a trial court would rule no differently on the new law that the legislature passed.

“It’s not clear what we would have a lawsuit about,” he said.

“They want to put everything in the restraining order, which I have a hard time with,” Rush said.

Indiana jurisprudence protects a woman’s right to make a medical decision to save her own life, she said, but noted the additional paperwork and burden on doctors under the new law to prove it.

Fisher said the state was “perfectly fine” except for a mother’s life, noting it would likely be successfully challenged in court if it were removed.

Judge Christopher Goff found that a near-total ban on abortion would hit the poor or other women without access to a clinic.

Why wasn’t it “problematic” that most abortion clinics had to close under the paused law unless they were owned or operated by a hospital or surgical center?

“Why is it all or nothing,” Goff asked.

Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, who represents Planned Parenthood, said the new law is “unwarranted constitutional interference.”

“Freedom matters,” Falk said, noting that a near-total ban would mean women and girls would “suffer.” Some might die, he later said.

Hoosier women have had the right to abortion for nearly 50 years, he said.

Typically, medical providers are not allowed to bring cases on behalf of their patients, Judge Geoffrey Slaughter noted.

They have “legal rights” because they can also expect criminal consequences under the law, Falk argued.

How far should standard or control of one’s body go, Slaughter asked, to the point of drugs or doctor-assisted suicide?

The courts can limit that latitude, Falk said. He asked to return to Indiana’s previous 20-week ban.

“We’re not saying that a woman had the right to terminate her pregnancy at eight months,” he said.

Slaughter questioned why a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy should take precedence over the rights of an unborn fetus.

Indiana never made that distinction, the attorney said. The fetus itself must reach viability, Falk said.

“Abortion is not a modern manifestation of freedom,” Fisher said during his brief rebuttal, saying an embryo has a right to life.

Indiana was the first state to enact stricter abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court removed federal protection by overturning Roe v. Wade lifted in June.

The Indiana ban, which eliminated licenses for all abortion clinics in the state, includes exceptions allowing in-hospital abortions in cases of rape and incest before 10 weeks of conception; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and when a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.

Court rulings have allowed abortions to continue under previous Indiana laws that outlawed abortions after 20 weeks of gestation and strictly restricted abortions after 13 weeks.

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The Associated Press contributed to this.