Indiana Supreme Court lifts injunction on abortion ban. Here’s what that means.

Anti-abortion supporters try to cover a sign of an abortion rights supporter during an anti-abortion rally as the Indiana Senate Rules Committee met a Republican proposal to ban nearly all abortions in the state during a hearing at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Tuesday, July 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Indiana’s near-total abortion ban will go into effect as soon as Aug. 1 following a state Supreme Court decision to uphold the law Friday, but who all it applies to now is still murky. 

An injunction from a separate lawsuit is still in place meaning Hoosiers who seek an abortion for religious reasons may be able to still do so. 

The state’s highest court found that the law — which bans abortions at any stage except in cases of rape or incest before 10 weeks post-fertilization; or to protect the life and health of the mother  — is constitutionally enforceable. 

The Indiana General Assembly passed the law last summer during a two-week special legislative session. But a week later a judge temporarily blocked the law while a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana and other groups on behalf of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers was pending. 

What’s happening

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that Senate Bill 1 in its entirety is not unconstitutional. 

“(Indiana’s constitution)  generally permits the General Assembly to prohibit abortions which are unnecessary to protect a woman’s life or health,” Justice Derek Molter wrote in the majority opinion, “so long as the legislation complies with the constitutional limits that apply to all legislation, such as those limiting legislation to a proper exercise of the police power and providing privileges and immunities equally.”

However, Molter left the door open for future lawsuits against portions of Senate Bill 1. 

“By saying Senate Bill 1 is not unconstitutional in its entirety in all circumstances, we do not say the opposite either — that every single part of the law can be applied consistent with our Constitution in every conceivable set of circumstances,” he wrote. 

Why some Hoosiers may be able to still obtain abortions

A judge in a different lawsuit issued a separate preliminary injunction in December against the law over allegations that it violates the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Because of that, the law is still on hold for the plaintiffs in that case, Hoosier Jews for Choice as well as five women of various faiths.  The ACLU of Indiana argues that the December injunction applies to anyone whose religious beliefs require them to obtain abortions in certain situations. 

 The Indiana Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on that second case regarding religious freedoms in September.

How many people seek abortions

Shortly before Friday’s ruling, the Indiana Department of Health released both its annual pregnancy termination report and a first quarter report, providing a window into who all sought an abortion since Indiana lawmakers passed the abortion law last year. 

Even with the ban on hold, the number of abortions performed in the state dropped by hundreds, likely due to confusion and uncertainty around the future legality of abortion in Indiana. Between September 2022 through March 2023, 4,388 abortions were performed. 

In the same time period the year prior, 4,949 abortions were performed. 

Even as the number of total abortions dropped, the number of abortions performed on people coming from out-of-state increased in the first quarter of the year. Almost 20% of patients came from out of state, the highest percentage since at least 2017. The majority of out-of-state patients came from Kentucky. 

How are people reacting?

The plaintiffs in the case decided on Friday released a joint statement saying the decision will force Hoosiers to carry pregnancies to term or leave the state. 

“We are devastated by the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling today which will deprive more than 1.5 million people in Indiana — particularly Black, Latino, and Indigenous people, people with low incomes, and LGBTQ+ people, who already face the most challenges when seeking medical care —  of life-saving, essential health care.”

Indiana Democrats criticized the Republican supermajority for ignoring public opinion polls when they passed the abortion law last August after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Indiana was the first state to approve legislation following the controversial ruling. 

“Multitudes of Hoosier women every year will be forced to travel hundreds of extra miles to other states to receive healthcare,” Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Mike Schmuhl said. “The few exceptions provided are likely only exceptions on paper, as bans in other states have shown.”

He added that Hoosier Democrats will continue to work to “restore full reproductive rights.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Todd Rokita and Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, both Republicans, praised the court’s decision. 

“We celebrate this day — one long in coming, but morally justified,” Rokita said in a statement. “Thank you to all the warriors who have fought for this day that upholds LIFE.”

Contact Kaitlin Lange on Twitter @kaitlin_lange or email her at [email protected]

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Header image: Anti-abortion supporters try to cover a sign of a pro-abortion rights supporter during an anti-abortion rally at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Tuesday, July 26, 2022. (Credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy)