INDIANAPOLIS – Two lawsuits have been filed challenging Indiana’s near-total abortion ban, and although they did not stop the law from taking effect Thursday, at least one of them could put the ban on hold if a preliminary injunction is issued.
The ACLU of Indiana filed both lawsuits. The first, filed in partnership with abortion providers, argues the law poses a a right to privacy violation under the Indiana constitution. The other, filed on behalf of Hoosier Jews for Choice and five women, argues the ban comes into conflict with Indiana’s religious freedom law since not all religions believe life begins at conception.
“That is not the view of Islam, that’s not the view of Judaism, that’s not the view of some Christian denominations,” said Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana.
Falk said he’s “hopeful” judges will put Indiana’s near-total abortion ban on hold as the two lawsuits he has filed are decided.
“We can’t minimize how serious the loss of abortion rights in Indiana will be,” he said.
Attorney General Todd Rokita (R-Indiana) has vowed to defend the state against any lawsuits filed.
“Indiana has had an abortion ban in its history before,” Rokita said. “Before Roe v. Wade.”
With the law now in effect, Rokita is also focusing on enforcement. His office will present violations to the state’s medical licensing board, he said.
But any complaints will be vetted first, he added, and those investigations will be prompted by reports his office receives.
“I doubt we’re going to rove around with deputy attorney generals looking in facilities and that kind of thing,” Rokita said. “It’s going to be driven by complaints and tips we receive.”
Under the law, criminal charges would be filed by county prosecutors. Aside from potentially losing their license, doctors who perform illegal abortions could face one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
And as we sat down with Rokita, we asked him about his ongoing investigation into Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape survivor from Ohio.
During a July appearance on Fox News, Rokita called Dr. Bernard an “abortion activist acting as a doctor.” He implied, without evidence, that she violated privacy laws and that she did not file the legal paperwork.
FOX59 requested and got that paperwork soon after that interview. It shows that she did follow the law, and an IU Health review found Dr. Bernard did not violate the girl’s privacy.
When asked about the criticism he has received for the investigation, including from some who say he is trying to “intimidate” doctors who perform legal abortions, Rokita responded: “If it’s me, it’s been my predecessor, and my predecessor before that and everything, it’s the job that we do at the Attorney General’s Office is enforce Indiana law. Now, this one might have been high-profile, but it doesn’t change our actions or how we behave, or how we investigate the complaints that we receive.”
Rokita declined to share whether he has uncovered any evidence of wrongdoing. He also could not provide a date for when the investigation may end.
As for the lawsuits, Jody Madeira, a professor at the IU Maurer School of Law, said she believes either could be successful, though there’s little precedent for the religious freedom case.
“We’re used to basically having a pattern of conservative individuals filing suit arguing that certain state laws obligate them to do things that are counter to the religious principles,” Madeira said. “Here, the theory of the case is a little bit different.”
A court hearing on the lawsuit filed on behalf of abortion providers is set for Monday in Monroe County. That’s when the judge is expected to decide whether to put the abortion law on hold temporarily as the case is decided.
As for the lawsuit on religious freedom, a hearing has been set for October 14 in Marion County.