IN Brief

Trial judge says she lacks jurisdiction to clarify who is covered by Indiana abortion ban injunction

By: - August 21, 2023 2:00 pm

Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch said in an order on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023, that she can't clarify an injunction against Indiana's near-total abortion ban because it is currently under appeal, and she “lacks jurisdiction” to take further action. (Getty Images)

A Marion County judge said Monday that she cannot clarify who is covered by an injunction against Indiana’s near-total abortion ban — instead punting the issue to the state’s court of appeals.

The decision came down the same day Indiana’s Supreme Court justices said they will not rehear their ruling upholding the state’s new abortion restrictions. The high court certified its June ruling on Monday, which means the ban is now back in effect.

Earlier, attorneys challenging the state’s abortion ban on religious freedom grounds asked the Marion Superior Court to dispel confusion in that case by explicitly stating a preliminary injunction extends to all members of the class-action suit. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana also asked the court to clarify that the injunction protects entities, such as a hospital, performing abortions for class members.

But in an order issued Monday, Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch said she can’t clarify the injunction because it is currently under appeal, noting that she “lacks jurisdiction” to take further action.

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Order Denying


The narrow injunction grants a temporary religious exemption from the state’s abortion ban. But it’s been mired in confusion about who it protects.

That’s because the case initially involved only a handful of plaintiffs, and Welch granted the injunction to those plaintiffs before the case was certified as a class-action suit.

The ACLU’s lawsuit — the second major court challenge against the state’s new abortion law — uses the state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to argue that the abortion ban infringes on the religious beliefs of plaintiffs of multiple faiths.

A hearing before the Indiana Court of Appeals on the preliminary injunction in the religious freedom case is set for Dec. 6.

The request for clarification came after the Indiana Supreme Court tossed out a wide-ranging preliminary injunction in June when it largely upheld the state’s abortion ban on constitutional liberty grounds.

But medical providers across the state have already stopped providing abortion care services altogether. Patients are instead being referred to clinics outside the state.


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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.