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New lawsuit argues Indiana’s abortion ban violates religious freedom

People protesting outside the Indiana Statehouse.
Lawsuits are ongoing in Indiana and Kentucky following laws that took effect this year banning abortion in most cases.

The ACLU of Indiana has filed a civil lawsuit that argues the state’s upcoming abortion ban violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Lawmakers passed RFRA in 2015 to prevent government entities from interfering with religious practices.

ACLU attorneys say the abortion ban would burden some religious groups by restricting access to the care. They say not all religions believe life begins at conception, which is the basis for SEA 1, the near-total ban passed last month during the special legislative session.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Hoosier Jews for Choice and five people who practice religions including Judaism and Islam.

“Indiana’s RFRA law protects religious freedom for all Hoosiers, not just those who practice Christianity,” ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said in a statement. “The ban on abortion will substantially burden the exercise of religion by many Hoosiers who, under the new law, would be prevented from obtaining abortions, in conflict with their sincere religious beliefs.”

Some plaintiffs practice Judaism, which includes beliefs that the life of the pregnant person takes precedence over the fetus, and that life begins after a child takes a first breath. One plaintiff practices Islam, which also gives priority to the health of the pregnant person.

According to the lawsuit, the filing is brought on behalf of plaintiffs and “all persons in Indiana whose religious beliefs direct them to obtain abortions in situations prohibited by SEA 1 who need, or will need, to obtain an abortion and who are not, or will not be, able to obtain an abortion because of SEA 1.”

Attorneys are asking the court to declare the ban unlawful and block it with a preliminary injunction.

The lawsuit is filed in Marion County against individuals with the state licensing board and prosecutors in Marion, Lake, Monroe, St. Joseph and Tippecanoe counties.

The ACLU of Indiana filed a separate lawsuit last month asking for injunctive relief. They argue that the law goes against the state’s constitution. The court has not yet issued a ruling in that case.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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