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The Satanic Temple challenges Indiana abortion ban in federal court

Signs with messages against abortion restrictions cover a state at the Indiana Statehouse in July.
The Satanic Temple has filed a federal lawsuit challenging Indiana's recent abortion ban. Pictured: Signs covering a statue outside the Indiana Statehouse as thousands protested the proposed abortion ban at the start of a special legislative session in July.

The Satanic Temple has filed a federal lawsuit arguing Indiana’s recent abortion ban violates constitutional and religious freedoms.

The lawsuit was filed last week against Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Attorney General Todd Rokita, on behalf of multiple anonymous “involuntarily pregnant women.” 

Attorneys argue the new law, which took effect Sept. 15 and is currently blocked in state court, violates the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act by making abortions illegal in most cases. 

There are exceptions only to save the life of the pregnant patient, if there are fatal fetal anomalies, or in cases of rape or incest, up to 10 weeks. 

The lawsuit argues this prevents members of The Satanic Temple from exercising their freedom to bodily autonomy. The suit further states the ban infringes on the religious organization's belief that an embryo or fetus is part of the pregnant person’s body between conception and viability, and “not imbued with any being or existence separate and apart from that of the involuntary pregnant woman herself.”

It also argues the ban violates the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by imposing involuntary servitude, and it lists violations of the 14th Amendment, including discrimination against people who become pregnant by accident while engaging in protected sex. 

Attorneys for the plaintiffs ask the federal judge to bar the new law from being enforced against members of The Satanic Temple. Court records show there are more than 11,000 members in Indiana. 

The most recent litigation is the third case filed in the past month challenging the abortion ban. The first — which recently led to the law being temporarily blocked — was filed by the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and several providers. 

Abortions resumed in Indiana last week following that injunction. 

The ACLU also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Hoosier Jews for Choice and others, citing violations of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The judge in that case had not yet heard arguments. 

The Satanic Temple has brought lawsuits against abortion restrictions in other states, including in Texas last year.

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

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