Judge blocks abortion ban in Indiana on religious freedom grounds

(Reuters) – Another Indiana judge on Friday blocked the state from enforcing its law banning most abortions after Jewish, Muslim and other non-Christian women challenged it in a lawsuit.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch issued a preliminary injunction against the Republican-backed law, which bans abortions with limited exceptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities or a serious health risk to the mother. The plaintiffs have argued that the measure violates religious freedom protected by another state law.

The law had already been put on hold when another judge in September blocked Indiana from enforcing it while Planned Parenthood and other health care providers challenged it in court.

Indiana became the first state to pass a new law banning abortion after the US Supreme Court in June overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had legalized the procedure nationwide. Other Republican-led states quickly began enforcing older bans.

Welch issued her injunction after a group called Hoosier Jews for Choice and five individual women challenged the abortion law under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU said the plaintiffs represented religions including Judaism and Islam as well as “independent spiritual belief systems.”

“The court finds that SEA 1 substantially burdens the plaintiffs’ religious exercise,” Welch wrote, using the law’s formal name, in granting the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction while the challenge to its legality continues.

“Although some religions believe that human life begins at conception, this is not a view shared by all religions or all religious people,” the ACLU said in a statement.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, Calif.; Editing by Will Dunham)

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