Saturday, December 03, 2022

Indiana Court Enjoins Abortion Restrictions as Violating State's RFRA

In Anonymous Plaintiff 1 v. Individual Members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, (IN Super. Ct., Dec. 2, 2022), an Indiana state trial court enjoined the state from enforcing Indiana's law restricting abortions against plaintiffs whose religious beliefs permit or require abortions in situations not allowed under Indiana law.  Plaintiffs were Jewish and Muslim, and one plaintiff of no specific denomination. The court, invoking Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said in part:

26. This Court finds that the Plaintiffs practices regarding abortion are religious in nature: they have established that, under circumstances that would be prohibited by S.E.A. 1, their religious beliefs would compel them to have abortions....

43. The undisputed evidence establishes that the Plaintiffs do not share the State’s belief that life begins at fertilization or that abortion constitutes the intentional taking of a human life. To the contrary, they have different religious beliefs about when life begins, and they believe that under certain circumstances not permitted by S.E.A. 1, they would be required to receive abortions. Under the law, the Court finds these are sincere religious beliefs.

44. The State has not asserted a compelling interest in refusing to provide an exception to the Plaintiffs if the law were otherwise enforceable. Indiana has no interest in violating the sincere religious beliefs and exercise of the Plaintiffs....

49. The Plaintiffs argue that S.E.A. 1 is not narrowly tailored and is underinclusive, in that it provides exceptions for some abortions—though not religious exceptions—in circumstances that directly contravene the State’s purported interest. 

50. The State argues that abortion, regardless of gestational age of the zygote, embryo, or fetus, is the killing of an innocent human being, and its interest is in preventing that killing....

51. However, the statute explicitly allows abortions in circumstances that the State acknowledges constitute the “killing” of an “innocent human being”: for example, where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and where the fetus is viable but will not live beyond three months after birth.

A different state trial court has previously enjoined enforcement of the Act on state constitutional grounds. (See prior posting.)

Indianapolis Star reports on the decision. [Thanks to Daniel Conkle via Religionlaw for the lead.]