After last summer’s enactment of Senate Bill 1, which outlawed abortion with few exceptions, the Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday from state officials defending the ban and Planned Parenthood seeking to overturn it.
The discussion also addressed a preliminary injunction blocking the abortion ban, a case the Supreme Court took on, bypassing the Court of Appeals.
There was a stillness of uncertainty in the air before starting, as members of the public pushed for seats inside the courtroom in the Indiana Statehouse. Many visitors seemed new to the Indiana Supreme Court, uncertain about the rules of not wearing political logos or using recording devices during the hearing. Some were found biting nails, sharing glances.
Tom Fisher, a lawyer for the Indiana attorney general’s office, and Ken Falk, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, and Kentucky, took turns sharing their arguments regarding whether or not SB 1 is constitutional.
Both sides of the courtroom picked apart the contents and meaning of Article 1, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution, the part of the document beginning, “We declare, that all men are created equal …”
The silence was brought to a close for the remainder of the hour as Fisher began describing what he considers the moral concerns of abortion, saying that ethically, pregnancies should not be ended except in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s health. Fisher did not use his full time for his opening statement, talking for about three minutes before offering the rest up to questioning.
“Abortion providers seek to strip the right to protect the unborn from Hoosier voters once again,” Fisher said.
Falk gave his rebuttal while focusing on the definition of liberty and “natural rights,” taking the stance that liberty protects “the right of a woman to reproductive control.”
“Describing SB 1 as a total ban on virtually all abortions, while certainly accurate, sanitizes the harm that it will cause,” Falk said.
He also did not use his full time, and both attorneys were interrupted by the justices for clarification on a variety of their statements.
The justices had questions for both sides regarding where the line of autonomy rights stops, even bringing up the right to use hard drugs or suicide. They also questioned Fisher on if a total abortion ban would be constitutional, to which he said he had “doubts.”
Chief Justice Loretta Rush (above) made the point to Falk that “both sides have good people” and that “natural rights” are particularly hard to identify.
The argument covered nearly every commonly discussed issue surrounding abortion, from the equality of a woman’s and a fetus’ rights to whether or not certain clinics can perform safe abortions as opposed to hospitals.
Rush ended the argument by stating that the judges would come to conclusions in “due time.”
To watch a full recorded video of the proceedings, you can go here.
Ashlyn Myers is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.