Indiana abortion clinics reopening after judge blocks ban

Keywords Law / Legal Issues
  • Comments
  • Print

After an Indiana judge on Thursday blocked the state’s abortion ban from being enforced, phones starting ringing across Indiana abortion clinics, which are preparing to resume the procedures a week after the ban had gone into effect.

“People are getting the word that abortion is now legal again, and people are ready to get their health care that they deserve and that they desire,” Dr. Katie McHugh, an abortion provider at Women’s Med in Indianapolis, told The Associated Press.

Owen County Judge Kelsey Hanlon issued a preliminary injunction against the ban, putting the new law on hold as abortion clinic operators argue in a lawsuit that it violates the state constitution.

Indiana’s seven abortion clinics were to lose their state licenses under the ban—which only permits abortions within its narrow exceptions to take place in hospitals or outpatient surgical centers.

The ban was approved by the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature on Aug. 5 and signed by GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb. That made Indiana the first state to enact tighter abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated federal abortion protections by overturning Roe v. Wade in June.

The judge wrote “there is reasonable likelihood that this significant restriction of personal autonomy offends the liberty guarantees of the Indiana Constitution” and that the clinics will prevail in the lawsuit. The order prevents the state from enforcing the ban pending a trial on the merits of the lawsuit.

Republican state Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement: “We plan to appeal and continue to make the case for life in Indiana,” calling the abortion ban law “a reasonable way” to protect the unborn.

Women’s Med is expecting to see patients again starting Friday, McHugh said.

“I had really hoped for this, but honestly, I didn’t really expect it,” she said. “So the fact that this is what happened is such a pleasant surprise and such a validation of what we have been saying this whole time.”

Whole Woman’s Health, which operates an abortion clinic in South Bend, said its staff members “are making plans to resume abortion care in the near future.”

“Of course, this landscape of legal back-and-forth leads to disruption in patient care and uncertainty for our staff,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health.

Indiana’s ban followed the political firestorm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to end her pregnancy. The case gained wide attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child came to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” ban.

An Ohio judge has temporarily blocked that state law, indicating he will allow abortions to continue up to 20 weeks’ gestation until after a court hearing scheduled for Oct. 7.

With Indiana now on hold, bans on abortion at any point in pregnancy are in place in 12 Republican-led states. In Wisconsin, clinics have stopped providing abortions amid litigation over whether an 1849 ban is in effect. Georgia bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected and Florida and Utah have bans that kick in after 15 and 18 weeks gestation, respectively.

The Indiana ban replaced state laws that generally prohibited abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and tightly restricted them after the 13th week. The ban includes exceptions allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest, before 10 weeks post-fertilization; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which is representing the abortion clinics, filed the lawsuit Aug. 31 and argued the ban would “prohibit the overwhelming majority of abortions in Indiana and, as such, will have a devastating and irreparable impact on the plaintiffs and, more importantly, their patients and clients.”

Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana’s legal director, pointed to the state constitution’s declaration of rights including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in arguing before the judge on Monday that it included a right to privacy and to make decisions on whether to have children.

The state attorney general’s office said the court should uphold the ban, saying arguments against it are based on a “novel, unwritten, historically unsupported right to abortion” in the state constitution.

“The constitutional text nowhere mentions abortion, and Indiana has prohibited or heavily regulated abortion by statute since 1835—before, during, and after the time when the 1851 Indiana Constitution was drafted, debated, and ratified,” the office said in a court filing.

The question of whether the Indiana Constitution protects abortion rights is undecided.

A state appeals court decision in 2004 said privacy was a core value under the state constitution that extended to all residents, including women seeking an abortion. But the Indiana Supreme Court later set aside that ruling without addressing whether the state constitution included such a right.

Hanlon, a Republican who was first elected in 2014 as a judge in the rural southern Indiana county, wrote that Indiana’s constitution “is more explicit in its affirmation of individual rights and its limitation of legislative power to intrude into personal affairs” than the U.S. Constitution.

“There is a reasonable likelihood that decisions about family planning, including decisions about whether to carry pregnancy to term,” are protected by the state constitution, Hanlon wrote.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinic operators involved in the lawsuit said in a statement that they were “grateful that the court granted much needed relief for patients, clients, and providers but this fight is far from over.”

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

13 thoughts on “Indiana abortion clinics reopening after judge blocks ban

  1. This Hanlon must be a self-honoring super jurist. She over rules a sitting legislature, a governor and the US Supreme Court, that found this is not a part of the US Constitution that it is up to the States to decide. This is such a dangerous precedent it is scary. What if some, single solitary nut job, judge ruled on something else many us hold dear. We could have civil war?

    1. Paul,
      I believe you have completely misunderstood (or have mischaracterized) – there has been no overruling of anything. Rather, the judge has placed a hold on the ban while a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality works its way through the court system. In other words, she has placed the state back where it was before the legislature and governor used a special session to abruptly change the rules for the upcoming time period during which the judicial system sorts out whether or not their actions in changing our law violated our constitution. 

    2. Paul A – As much as you or I may not like the ruling, you are going off the rails… there is no inconsistency, certainly not from the US Supreme Court, as they interpreted the US Constitution as being silent on the question, not the Indiana Constitution, which is what Judge Hanlon based his ‘likelihood’ ruling upon. As far as going against the legislature/governor, state laws need to be subservient to the state constitution, so the question is a legitimate one to answer – one that will likely be decided by the IN Supreme Court, irrespective of a temporary enjoinment against enforcement by a local judge.

      As a practical matter this is why Roe was so damaging from a legal perspective, because these issues could have been worked-through / interpreted at the state level gradually over the past 50 years; now it has white-hot/reflexive attention.

    3. It only has white-hot reflexive attention because of the need for one party to take immediate action to try to satisfy the extremists who supported them for 30 or so years instead of Indiana voters.

      (I say try because nothing will make Indiana Right to Life happy. Ever.)

      Indiana Republicans took polls on abortion after Dobbs. They didn’t like the results since they reportedly showed significant, if not majority, support for first trimester abortion.

      Legislators could have put a non-binding referendum on the ballot and seen what everyone wanted and taken action in January. They passed. Instead, Indiana Republicans decided to take immediate action and give the extremists they liked the least – Nisly and Jacob – an outlet to embarrass all of them on their way out the door.

      They could have made their election or re-election a referendum on the issue. They chose not to and, instead told people to vote them out if they didn’t like the new law.

      Easy to be cocky when you’re the Speaker of the House and you just finished choosing your voters … but we shall see how that works out. It’s helpful for Indiana Republicans that Indiana Democrats are rather inept.

    1. You missed the memo, Bob. We are all our own gods now. Faith or tenets or scripture mean nothing … it’s all about your feelings.

      Doesn’t matter if you can’t articulate any religious beliefs to back those feelings up … if that’s how you feel, those are your sincere religious beliefs and they must be respected.

      Not saying I agree with it, but that’s where we are.

      By the way, not all faiths agree with your assessment of when life begins. But you know that, surely.

    2. Everyone doesn’t believe In God let alone the same God. Meaning people belong to different religious beliefs may not share your same Christian beliefs. So wouldn’t that be unfair and you pushing your beliefs on those that don’t subscribe to the same God you do? This is the hypocrisy of it all and politicians shouldn’t pander to either side. The government should never dictate what any person decides to do with their own body.

  2. Sorry to hear this. I am not saying this to condemn anyone but to offer sympathy, hope, and forgiveness. These women need our love, support and hope. Oftentimes, they think this is the only way out. Abortion clinics are only in it for the money but use women’s rights rhetoric to get attention and injunctions from the public and courts. More babies will be killed and the women will need counseling to recover from aborting their babies. Lord I pray a supernatural insight and truth into what they are doing. Not condemnation but a conviction to know they have a living fetus of a baby inside of them. I pray they will feel the love of God and realize their is a better option. The surgeon will surgically removing the fetus by using a tool that squeezes and kills the fetus. This sometimes can leave parts in the women’s abdomen and cause a need for an ER visit and occasionally death.

    1. Peggy – you could also maybe pray for better affordable childcare options they could afford to support that baby, or mandatory time off so a woman doesn’t have to choose between a job and having a baby.

      Our refusal to spend when it comes to financial support is one of the largest reason women choose abortion, and I remain perplexed as to why that is the case. Unless, of course, abortion bans are about a lot more than just abortion.

  3. This is one of the things that these groups use to get to peoples emotions. You won’t like my answer.

    It’s called boundaries and being responsible for your choices. Quit relying on the government. If you don’t want to get pregnant than don’t have unprotected sex.

    But I also repeat we need to have grace & love for women who have aborted their baby. There is no sin that God won’t forgive. He can heal any hurt in your life.

    1. “These groups”.

      You also won’t like my answer, Peggy. What you’re showing is that you’re not really all that pro-life. You’re just anti-abortion.

      Me, if the choice is between getting a basically insignificant tax refund or spending more something to enable less abortions, I’ll forgo the money every time. For pete’s sake, spend it so that babies have better outcomes and mothers don’t die at such an alarmingly high rate like they do in Indiana.

      And spare me the bit about using contraception, because the supposed “pro-life” movement is already moving on to prohibit that.

      The pro-life movement is just Christian conservatives who want to punish people for having sex outside of marriage and people who are threatened by the idea of women having agency in their lives. Also, I should include the Catholic fundamentalists for whom sex is only for procreation.

      Just remember that the folks that Jesus judged the most harshly were the Pharisees. The folks memo were more worried about being legalists than loving people. Forcing someone to have a child they can’t afford and sending them on the 18 year journey of motherhood with a few packs of diapers and the admonishment that they it’s their own fault anyway doesn’t exactly strike me as the type of thing that Jesus would’ve done.

    2. Is it fair to force people to do what you think is right if they don’t share your same religious or moral beliefs? Just because you have a conviction on the subject doesn’t make another person who doesn’t share the same conviction wrong. There’s many reasons a woman may want to get an abortion. One minute folks like you are crying about your tax dollars paying for welfare recipients and how they need to get off their lazy butts and get a job, now you’re an advocate to force people to have these babies no matter what the circumstances are. Now more tax dollars will be needed to take care of all these unwanted children by parents who can’t even feed themselves, let alone a new born. The ignorance and self-righteous is real with a lot of people here in Indiana.

  4. Now the CEO of Salesforce has said he’s willing to allow those working at their Indy location relocate if they feel they’re affected by Indiana’s abortion law. Indiana government leaders including the governor can’t get out the way of their on two feet when it comes to many social issues. Then these same leaders can’t understand why many tech companies bypass Indiana and its outdated, out of touch laws for other more progressive states. Indiana’s leaders are out of touch and an older generation that doesn’t understand the changing demographics and younger generations point of views on many subjects. This is one of many reasons Indiana’s talent leave to other states. No wonder other states waited and let Indiana jump head first into the fire. Illinois and other competing states waited to see the fallout and how bad Indiana would lose out on this new abortion law. Indiana didn’t learn from the fallout of the Religious act bill, same sex marriage ect? The state really needs to get rid of its old aging government leaders and replace them with more younger forward thinking individuals that sees an Indiana of the future and not an Indiana that’s stuck in the 50’s. Governor Holcomb keeps trying to get out of state investors to relocate here, good luck with that Eric, Indiana has committed economic suicide for the state to grow. We’ll get out done by all our peer cities for sure now. The same old Indiana