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Indiana appealing 2nd court decision blocking abortion ban

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A second legal challenge that has blocked Indiana’s abortion ban from being enforced could also be headed to the state Supreme Court.

The Indiana attorney general’s office asked the state’s highest court to review a county judge’s Dec. 2 ruling that the abortion ban adopted in August by the Republican-dominated Legislature violates the state’s 2015 religious freedom law signed by GOP then-Gov. Mike Pence.

The office argued in a court filing Friday that the Supreme Court should take over the case, bypassing the typical intermediate step of the state appeals court. The court has already done that with another judge’s ruling issued in September that the ban violates the Indiana Constitution’s protections of individual rights. The court is scheduled to hear arguments in that case on Jan. 19.

The latest filing from Republican state Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office said only that the Indiana Supreme Court can provide a final answer on the “gravely important question of whether Indiana’s statutory protection of religious exercise” restricts the Legislature’s authority to limit abortions.

“Requiring the parties to go through the normal appeals process would only delay final resolution of issues likely headed to this Court anyway,” the attorney general office’s filing said.

Marion County Judge Heather Welch on Dec. 2 sided with five residents who hold Jewish, Muslim and spiritual faiths and who argued that the ban would violate their religious rights on when they believe abortion is acceptable.

“The undisputed evidence establishes that the Plaintiffs do not share the State’s belief that life begins at fertilization or that abortion constitutes the intentional taking of a human life,” Welch wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which filed the lawsuit, did not immediately reply to a request for comment Tuesday on the attorney general office’s action.

Indiana faced a widespread national backlash and threats of business boycotts after Pence signed the GOP-backed religious freedom law, which critics argued allowed discrimination against gay people.

Indiana became the first state to enact tighter abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated federal protections by overturning Roe v. Wade in June. The state 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.

Court orders have allowed abortions to continue under previous Indiana laws generally prohibiting abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and tightly restricting it after the 13th week.

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