Oral arguments in RFRA challenge to abortion ban set for Wednesday

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The Court of Appeals of Indiana is set to hear oral arguments next week in a two-part challenge to Indiana’s near-total abortion ban under the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The case — Individual Members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, et al. v. Anonymous Plaintiff 1, et al., 22A-PL-2938 and 23A-PL-1313 — argues Senate Enrolled Act 1 violates the plaintiffs’ rights under RFRA. The law bans abortion in Indiana except in limited cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomaly, or to protect the life or health of the mother.

The plaintiffs include the group Hoosier Jews for Choice as well as anonymous practitioners of Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, Episcopalianism and paganism — all belief systems that allow abortions under circumstances outside the ban’s narrow exceptions. They filed suit soon after SEA 1 passed in the summer of 2022.

The Marion Superior Court granted a preliminary injunction in the RFRA case in December 2022, and the state defendants are now appealing. They’re arguing that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear the plaintiffs’ claims because they either lacked standing, or their claims are not ripe for adjudication. They also argue the plaintiffs weren’t entitled to injunctive relief.

As the question of the injunction went up on appeal, the trial court granted class certification in the case. The court defined the class as “[a]ll persons in Indiana whose religious beliefs direct them to obtain abortions in situations prohibited by Senate Enrolled Act No. 1 who need, or will need, to obtain an abortion and who are not, or will not be, able to obtain an abortion because of the Act.”

The state then filed a second appeal in the case, this time dealing with the class certification.

Meanwhile, the trial judge declined the plaintiffs’ request to clarify who is covered under the injunction — a question that arose following the class certification.

Both the injunction and the class certification will go before the COA in a consolidated appeal.

Since the class certification challenge has not been briefed, the parties’ exact claims on that issue are unknown.

The panelists will include Judges L. Mark Bailey, Melissa May and Leanna Weissmann. They will hear the case at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Indiana Supreme Court Courtroom on the third floor of the Indiana Statehouse.

The arguments will also be livestreamed.

Indiana Lawyer will be attending the oral arguments. Check back with us on Wednesday for additional coverage.

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