INDIANAPOLIS — A long line of people waited to get into the Indiana Supreme Court Thursday to watch the next abortion rights fight. The constitutionality of Indiana’s stricter abortion law was at the center of the debate.
Each side of the debate had approximately 30 minutes to present their case to the five judges. Ken Falk, the legal director of the Indiana section of the American Civil Liberties Union, represented abortion providers and Planned Parenthood. Their argument is that Senate Bill 1, which prohibits abortion in most cases, is unconstitutional under Article 1, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution.
“Freedom has meaning in its core value. It is the right to manage the most private aspects of our lives free from undue government interference,” Falk said. “This includes a woman’s right to reproductive control.”
The state claims Indiana’s more restrictive abortion law is constitutional and questions where the constitution says abortion is a right. The state was represented by Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, who has a long history of defending abortion laws.
“Our position is that there would be no limit to what judges could personally consider a fundamental right, just using the word liberty in Article 1(1) to implement those preferences,” Fisher said.
However, Chief Justice Loretta Rush appeared to dismiss some of the state’s claims that abortion was never part of the constitution’s freedom clause.
“When I reviewed every single law in Indiana that has ever dealt with abortion, every one protected the mother’s right to make a medical decision to save her life,” Chief Justice Rush said.
Senate Bill 1 allows a woman to request an abortion if her life is threatened. While the judges raised the issue of referring the issue of constitutionality to a lower court, both parties appear to believe that the decision must be made by the Supreme Court.
“I don’t know how the trial would end as I told the court,” Fisher said. “What are we going to clarify in terms of evidence? We need to know. We need to know the answer before we can have any trial as to whether there is a constitutional right to have an abortion.”
“I think the question before the court is whether or not this law is constitutional, so I think that issue needs to be decided,” Falk said.
As for Planned Parenthood, they say that regardless of this decision, they will continue to serve their patients.
“We’re going absolutely nowhere,” said Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood for the Great Northwest. “We will not be closing any of our Indiana state health centers. We will continue to care for and care for our patients, even if it means helping them access medical care outside of the state of Indiana.”
The court did not give a deadline for when a decision could be made.
Indiana was the first state in the nation to pass legislation restricting access to abortion since the US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade had picked up.
Indiana’s near-total abortion ban was passed during a special legislative session this summer, but was suspended while that lawsuit and other legal challenges play out in court.
To view the full hearing, click here.
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