June 23, 2023

Indiana pro-life legislation still on hold due to preliminary injunctions

Pro-life advocates fill the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on July 26, 2022, while the Indiana General Assembly held a special session regarding the state’s abortion law following the June 2022 overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Pro-life advocates fill the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on July 26, 2022, while the Indiana General Assembly held a special session regarding the state’s abortion law following the June 2022 overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Natalie Hoefer

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling last June—which overturned the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision—gave authority of abortion law back to the states.

The decision led to a flurry of activity in Indiana—activity that came to a sudden halt, leaving the status of Indiana’s new pro-life legislation still in limbo as The Criterion went to press this week.

Waiting on court decisions

The action began when Indiana became the first state to initiate a special session of its General Assembly last July to reassess the state’s abortion law in place at the time.

The result was Senate Bill 1. It became Senate Enrolled Act 1 (SEA 1) when it was signed into law on Aug. 6, 2022. The new law limited abortion up to 10 weeks gestation in instances of rape or incest, up to 20 weeks gestation in cases of lethal fetal anomalies, or when the mother’s life is in danger from specific medical issues. It also required that abortions take place at a hospital or a hospital-owned surgery center.

The law, which greatly increased the legal protection afforded to unborn children in the state, went into effect on Sept. 15, 2022.

But just seven days later, a preliminary injunction was placed on the law in a legal challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that claimed the law violated the Indiana Constitution. The injunction put back into place Indiana’s abortion law as it stood prior to Sept. 15, which allowed abortion up to 22 weeks gestation, including at independent abortion centers.

The Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the case on Jan. 19. The preliminary injunction remains in place until a decision is announced, and the justices set no deadline for a decision.

Meanwhile, a second suit was filed against SEA 1 last fall, this time a class-action lawsuit based on the grounds of restriction of religious freedom. A Marion County judge ruled in December 2022 in favor of the plaintiffs—a group of anonymous women and the Hoosier Jews For Choice organization—and placed a second preliminary injunction on SEA 1.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita appealed the case to the Indiana Supreme Court, which in January denied hearing the case. It is now working its way through Indiana’s appellate court system.

“The [Indiana] Supreme Court could take up both challenges in a single ruling if it wants, or it could deal with the religious liberty question as a separate issue,” explains Marc Tuttle, president of Right to Life of Indianapolis.

“Obviously, if the court rules [SEA 1] is unconstitutional on privacy grounds, the religious liberty issue becomes moot. If it rules in such a way that both the privacy and religious liberty issues are addressed, it could lift all injunctions to [SEA 1]. So, we have to wait to see what the court does with its ruling.”

‘Indication of the decline in abortions’

Since the Dobbs decision, there has been a new energy in the pro-life movement, says Tuttle.

“The Dobbs decision gave the pro-life movement renewed hope that we can protect every human being in law,” he says.

Despite Indiana’s former, less restrictive abortion law still remainming in place, the state has seen a decrease in abortions, according to the state’s most recent termination of Pregnancy report issued in March.

“I think the biggest shift in abortion we have seen is movement away from the abortion facilities to the hospitals,” says Tuttle. “All abortion facilities except for Bloomington have apparently seen a decrease in abortions,” according to reports he is hearing from sidewalk counselors, he says.

The closing of the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance abortion facility in South Bend in early June “is an indication of the decline in abortions, too,” Tuttle adds. “Yes, there are referrals to abortion centers in Michigan, but studies have shown that the farther a woman has to travel for an abortion, the more likely she is to choose not to do it.”

The Dobbs decision “also gave us renewed energy to serve mothers in need, so we can save as many lives as possible,” he notes. “There has been a marked increase in interest in the work of pregnancy help centers.”

He also notes an increased intensity and attention to serving pregnant mothers through Indiana’s 2023 legislative General Assembly, which ended in April.

“Our legislators voted for increased funding for pregnancy services, for mental health services, for health care in general, as well as funding for telehealth services to reach those moms who are contemplating abortion and help them find assistance for themselves and their baby,” says Tuttle.

He also lauds House Enrolled Act 1001, which designates $7 million to alternative services for pregnant women, including the 12 pro-life Women’s Care Centers in Indiana.

Regardless of the outcome of the two lawsuits challenging SEA 1, the pro-life movement “now has to begin to engage the culture to show love and support for pregnant moms,” says Tuttle.

“We have to be involved in our city’s social services. We have to make sure that our schools are sending messages that are affirming of pregnant moms and promoting family life as the best way to raise and protect children.”

In assessing causes that lead to the decision to abort a child, Tuttle has found “the attack on the family” to be a major source.

“Studies show that the traditional, two-parent family of a mom and dad is the best way to care for and protect pregnant moms,” he says. “And it’s also the best way to prevent unintended pregnancy and abortion.”

He notes reviewing studies that indicate fathers provide a two-fold protection for women.

“One, they’re there to offer care and support for sons and daughters and give them guidance,” he says. “They also serve as a deterrent to predatory males. When dads are present, studies show there’s less likelihood of women being used and abused, and that pre-marital sex and pregnancy decrease.”

Part of the solution involves parishes “reaching out to single people to show them and nurture them in how to have loving, supporting marriages—that’s a huge first step,” says Tuttle.

“And just having couples be more bold as examples of loving, healthy marriages. So much of the solution to abortion takes place in the family,” he says.

His words are reminiscent of a statement St. John Paul II made in a Nov. 30, 1986, homily in Australia: “As the family goes, so goes the nation.” †

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