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ACLU lawsuit claims abortion ban violates RFRA

Posted at 10:49 PM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 11:53:53-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A lawsuit filed last week by the ACLU of Indiana argues that Indiana's near-total abortion ban violates Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"Now, how can you say that life doesn't begin at fertilization? Of course, it does. There's life there. But the question that people need to focus on is, the life that makes up a pregnancy, is that a person?" Dr. Jennifer Drobac, Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law at IU's Robert H. McKinney School of Law, said.

That is the question being pondered in the lawsuit. The ACLU filed the complaint on behalf of advocacy group Hoosier Jews for Choice.

"There is a sense in the Jewish community that this bill restricts our religious freedom. That within my community's understanding of Judaism and the ways that we practice our Jewish traditions, abortion isn't just something that should be open to us, but might even be mandated by Jewish law," Elly Cohen, co-chair of Hoosier Jews for Choice said at an event Wednesday night.

"In the Jewish faith, it's believed that the mother's life is paramount, and we don't believe that a person starts until birth, at least for me and for some Jews," Amalia Shifriss, co-chair of the steering committee at Hoosier Jews for Choice said on Wednesday.

The Jewish faith isn't the only one mentioned in the suit. There are also five anonymous women signed on, all of who follow different religions.

The suit reads, "Islam does not believe that the fetus is ensouled at the moment of conception and some Muslim scholars take the position that the fetus does not possess a soul until 120 days after conception."

According to Drobac, the government can only place limits on religious freedom for a compelling reason.

"They're going to argue that their compelling interest is the life of the baby. And who doesn't love babies?" Drobac said.

Now, the court gets to decide. The first hearing, concerning whether or not the judge will grant a temporary order to stop the law from being enforced while the case is argued in court, is scheduled for October 14th. No matter which way it goes, Drobac says this will continue to be argued in court, and at the polls.

"The law is not a perfect tool. Changing the law sometimes takes time," she said. "This Constitution is worth fighting for. Our democracy is worth fighting for."

A full copy of the lawsuit is available here.