Indiana’s new abortion restrictions blocked by preliminary injunction

Indiana, like several other Republican-led states, passed legislation in August to substantially restrict abortion following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June that set aside the Roe v. Wade ruling and allowed individual states the authority to regulate abortions as they best see fit.

That new law just went into effect last week, but a county judge just issued a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the law while a lawsuit to challenge it remains pending, Axios reported.

The injunction served to revert abortion regulation in the Hoosier State back to what it had been before this new law took effect, in which abortion procedures were permitted up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

New abortion restrictions blocked

The Associated Press reported that Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon issued the preliminary injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics and providers that challenged the new law.

The new law not only effectively bans most abortions in the state — with limited exceptions for the life and health of the mother, incest and rape, or “lethal” fetal anomalies — but also revokes licenses for abortion clinics and mandates that all such procedures be performed in hospitals or hospital-owned outpatient clinics.

That injunction issued by Judge Hanlon may be short-lived, however, as the AP noted that Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) said in a statement, “We plan to appeal and continue to make the case for life in Indiana.”

New law likely violates constitutional protections

In her 16-page ruling, Judge Hanlon acknowledged the conflict between both public and state interests in the matter, in that the public had an interest in bodily autonomy and privacy while the state also had an interest in regulating abortions and “preserving fetal life,” among other things.

However, she ultimately determined that the public’s interest, namely the “liberty” guaranteed by Article 1, Sec. 1 of the Indiana Constitution, prevailed and warranted a preliminary injunction to block further enforcement of the new abortion restrictions until the suit was fully settled on the merits.

Hanlon wrote that “there is a reasonable likelihood that decisions about family planning, including decisions about whether to carry a pregnancy to term,” were protected by the state constitution, and that the new law “materially burdens Hoosier women and girls’ right to bodily autonomy by making that autonomy largely contingent upon first experiencing extreme sexual violence or significant loss of physical health or death.”

As such, “there is a reasonable likelihood that this significant restriction of personal autonomy offends the liberty guarantees of the Indiana Constitution” and the plaintiffs will “prevail” on the merits of their suit.

The ruling will be appealed

The Indy Star reported that the plaintiff celebrated this initial victory with a joint statement that said, in part, “We are grateful that the court granted much needed relief for patients, clients, and providers but this fight is far from over.”

Indeed, in addition to vowing to appeal the injunction, AG Rokita also said in defense of the challenged law, “Our office remains determined to fight for the lives of the unborn, and this law provides a reasonable way to begin doing that.”

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