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Indiana Supreme Court hears oral arguments on near total abortion ban

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Posted at 9:26 PM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 21:26:22-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A long line of people waited to get into the Indiana Supreme Court Thursday to watch the next battle over abortion rights unfold. The constitutionality of Indiana’s stricter abortion law was the center of debate.

Both sides of the debate had had about 30 minutes to present their case to the five justices. Ken Falk, the legal director for the Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, represented abortion providers and Planned Parenthood. Their argument is that Senate Bill 1, which bans abortion in most cases, is unconstitutional under Article 1, Section 1 of the Indiana constitution.

"Liberty has meaning at its core value. It's the right to manage the most private aspects of our lives free from unwarranted government interference,” Falk said. “This include the right of a woman to reproductive control. “

The state claims that Indiana’s more restrictive abortion law is constitutional and ask where the constitution says that abortion is a right. The state was represented by Solicitor General Thomas Fisher , who has a history defending abortion laws.

"Our position is that there would be no limit to what judges might personally think ought to be included as a fundamental right if all they are doing is using the word liberty in article 1 section 1 to carry out those preferences," Fisher said.

However Chief Justice Loretta Rush seemed to push back on some of the claims made by the state that abortion is never a portion of the liberty clause in the constitution.

"When I reviewed every single law in Indiana that ever dealt with abortion, every single one protected the right of the mother with regard to making a medical decision to save her life," Chief Justice Rush said.

Senate Bill 1 does allow for a woman to seek an abortion if her life is threatened. The justices did bring up the topic of sending the question of constitutionality back to a trial court, but both parties seem to believe that this decision needs to be made by the Supreme Court.

"I don't know what the trial would be over, as I told the court,” Fisher said. “What are we going to be sorting out in terms of an evidentiary presentation? We have to know. We have to know the answer before we can have any sort of trial whether there is a right to abortion under the constitution. “

"I think the question before the court is whether or not this statute is constitutional, so I think that question has to be decided, " Falk said.

As for Planned Parenthood, they say regardless of this decision, they will continue to serve their patients.

"We absolutely are going nowhere,” Rebecca Gibron, the CEO of Planned Parenthood for the Great Northwest, said. “We will not be shuttering any of our health centers in the state of Indiana. We will continue to provide care and service to our patients even if that means the need to help them access care outside of the state of Indiana. “

The court gave no timeline for when a decision could be made.

Indiana became the first state in the nation to pass legislation restricting access to abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Indiana's near total abortion ban was passed during a special legislative session over the summer but was put on hold while this lawsuit and other legal challenges play out in court.

To watch the full hearing click here.

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