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Lawsuit uses Religious Freedom Restoration Act to challenge Indiana's abortion ban

The northwest exterior of the Indiana Statehouse, in the early hours of night. The sky is a dark, navy blue. The building is illuminated from the outside by large lights, while there are also lights on inside, visible in windows. The Statehouse is beige limestone, with a pale green dome rising up out of its center. There's a tree in the foreground, without any leaves.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act says an Indiana law can’t substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless that law is driven by “compelling governmental interest” and is the least restrictive way to advance that interest.

There’s another legal challenge seeking to halt Indiana’s near-total abortion ban.

This one – filed in Marion County court Thursday – said the ban, SEA 1(ss), violates Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA.

RFRA says an Indiana law can’t substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless that law is driven by “compelling governmental interest” and is the least restrictive way to advance that interest.

READ MORE: Remembering RFRA – Do businesses have the same influence now?

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The ACLU of Indiana, on behalf of Hoosier Jews for Choice and five anonymous citizens from across the state, said the abortion ban doesn’t meet that standard. Under the ban, abortions would only be allowed up to 20 weeks if the pregnant person’s serious health or life is at risk or if there’s a lethal fetal anomaly and up to 10 weeks in cases of rape or incest.

The lawsuit said Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, Episcopal and pagan faiths all recognize a right to abortions that would be banned under Indiana law. And in some cases, the suit argued some faith traditions even say abortions should be performed in situations that Indiana will soon outlaw.

The suit asks the courts to halt the law before it takes effect Sept. 15.

The ACLU is also leading another lawsuit, filed last month, that argued the abortion ban violates the Indiana Constitution.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the lawsuit had been filed in Monroe County. That was incorrect. It was filed in Marion County.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri.