INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana judge has now granted class action for a religious freedom-based lawsuit that seeks to strike down a near-total abortion ban in the Hoosier state.

On Tuesday, a Marion County Superior Court judge certified a lawsuit being brought against the state by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana as a class action.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the ACLU on behalf of Hoosier Jews for Choice and four anonymous women representing various faiths, claims that Indiana’s new abortion law violates the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA.

The women being represented in the lawsuit include practitioners of Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, Episcopalianism and paganism, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal, which are all belief systems that allow abortions under circumstances outside the ban’s narrow exceptions.

In September, the ACLU asked the Marion County court to certify a class that would include all Indiana residents whose religions “directed them to obtain abortions in situations” now not allowed by Senate Enrolled Act 1, a near-total ban on abortions throughout the state.

Under Indiana Trial Rule 23, in order for a suit to become class action, “one or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all only if”:

  • the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
  • there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
  • the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
  • the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

The IBJ reports that, in her 29-page order, Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch concluded all plaintiffs in this case share a common claim, that there a potentially many more plaintiffs and that the named plaintiffs are making claims representative of an entire class.

Attorneys representing Indiana, IBJ reports, argued against the proposed class by saying that it depends on class members’ “individual circumstances, states of mind, and subjective beliefs at any given moment.”

The office of Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita also argued that there is no objective way of determining who would be religiously motivated to receive an abortion, and that there is no consensus among the religions being represented in the case.

However, the IBJ reports that Judge Welch said there is “sufficient evidentiary support that the religions to which plaintiffs and putative class members belong would guide its practitioners to seek abortions under particular circumstances based on testimony from leaders of these faiths.”

The Indianapolis Business Journal contributed to and was cited in this report.