Judge gauges if Indiana abortion ban defies religious rights

Law Firm News

A top Indiana lawyer on Friday questioned the validity of a lawsuit brought by a group of residents who argue that the state’s abortion ban violates their religious freedoms.

A judge heard arguments Friday for about an hour in an Indianapolis courtroom, spurred by claims from five anonymous residents — who hold Jewish, Muslim and spiritual faiths — and the group Hoosier Jews for Choice. They argue the ban — which is currently blocked due to a separate lawsuit — violates their religious rights regarding when they believe abortion is acceptable.

The lawsuit says the ban violates the Jewish teaching that “a fetus attains the status of a living person only at birth” and that “Jewish law stresses the necessity of protecting the life and physical and mental health of the mother prior to birth.” It also cites theological teachings allowing abortion in at least some circumstances by Islamic, Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist and pagan faiths.

“The state simply cannot decree what is religious and what is secular,” Ken Falk, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana’s legal director, said Friday.

Filed in Marion County court, the religious freedom lawsuit is the second of two challenges against the ban filed by the ACLU. It cites a state law that then-Gov. Mike Pence signed in 2015 to prohibit any laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow their religious beliefs. Critics have decried the Republican-backed measure as a thinly disguised attempt to permit discrimination against gay people.

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