Leaked draft of Supreme Court opinion: What it could mean for Indiana abortion rights
A majority of Indiana lawmakers are eager to further restrict abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns longstanding protections, as a leaked draft of an opinion suggests it might.
The draft, first published Monday night by Politico, indicates a majority of the court's justices have voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 opinion that guaranteed constitutional protection for abortion rights.
The draft opinion on a controversial Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks goes much further than allowing such prohibitions — it would repudiate Roe v. Wade altogether.
More:Indiana politicians react to leaked SCOTUS draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade
The court was expected to issue an opinion in the case sometime this summer. It's unclear what impact, if any, the unprecedented leak might have on any final opinion. The court verified the authenticity of the leaked opinion on Tuesday but stressed it was a draft and did not represent a final view.
If the court does strike down abortion rights, Indiana Republicans are expected to move quickly to ban abortions in the state.
Indiana does not have so-called 'trigger ban'
Twenty-two states have pre-existing laws or so-called "trigger bans" that would prohibit or severely limit abortion access if Roe v. Wade is struck down, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights
Indiana does not have such a trigger, but state lawmakers want to act quickly if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade. The legislature has enacted dozens of less severe restrictions over the past decade.
Republican lawmakers, who hold a supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly, are pushing Gov. Eric Holcomb to call them back to the Statehouse as soon as possible if the court strikes down abortion rights in whole or in part.
One hundred Republican state lawmakers, including leaders of the House and Senate, signed onto a March 8 letter to Holcomb seeking a special legislative session "at the earliest date practical" if a court ruling expands "Indiana's ability to protect unborn children."
The signatories represent a majority of both chambers. Only 10 Republicans did not sign the letter.
The General Assembly isn't scheduled to meet again until November and only the governor can call them back to the Statehouse for a special session.
Gov. Holcomb: 'I’ll wait to review the official and final decision'
Holcomb has previously said he is considering it while waiting for a Supreme Court decision.
The leaked draft opinion is likely to increase pressure from social conservatives for a stronger commitment from the governor.
So far, though, Holcomb has not been as strident — at least not publicly — as his GOP colleagues in the legislature.
"Before further commenting on a leaked draft document out of the Supreme Court, like the rest of the country, I’ll wait to review the official and final decision they release on the matter," he said in a statement Tuesday.
A ban in Indiana would leave thousands of pregnant people each year without access to nearby safe and legal abortion services. A total of 7,756 pregnancies were terminated in Indiana in 2020, according to an annual report from the Indiana Department of Health.
Possible limits on Indiana abortion ban
If Indiana legislators enacted a flat-out ban on the medical procedure, the state could face challenges in the courts, according to Indiana University constitutional law expert Dan Conkle.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that state legislation has to meet a rationality standard, meaning laws have to rationally serve a state's interests. That could jeopardize a hypothetical Indiana ban if no exceptions are provided.
Conkle imagined a scenario in which abortion wasn't made available by legislation even if a pregnant individual's life was in danger.
"If her life were physically imperiled by continuing with the pregnancy," Conkle said, "and there was no exception, a court might declare that that's not rational because you can't, in essence, prefer one life over another."
The U.S. Supreme Court gives deference to states on the rationality issue, Conkle said, meaning there might not be much room for debate. But "there conceivably could be constitutional limits, even under (the U.S Supreme Court's) opinion if it becomes the law of the land," he said.
With an Indiana abortion ban, Illinois would likely become the next closest place for Hoosiers to receive legal abortion services. Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky all have existing laws or triggers that would ban all or nearly all abortions without the protections currently afforded under Roe v. Wade.
IndyStar Statehouse Reporter Kaitlin Lange contributed to this story.
Contact IndyStar reporter Tony Cook at 317-444-6081 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @IndyStarTony.
Call IndyStar courts reporter Johnny Magdaleno at 317-273-3188 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @IndyStarJohnny