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Federal judge dismisses Satanic Temple lawsuit that sought to strike down Indiana’s abortion ban

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson dismissed a challenge to Indiana’s near-total abortion ban that was filed by The Satanic Temple, saying in her ruling on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, that the group failed to prove it had standing to challenge the state’s law. (Photo via Getty Images)

A federal judge in Indianapolis has dismissed an attempt by The Satanic Temple to block Indiana’s near-total abortion ban.

The Satanic Temple — a nontheistic religious organization based in Salem, Massachusetts — filed a federal lawsuit last year, claiming that the new abortion ban violates Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The group maintained the ban is unconstitutional and an infringement on its members’ religious beliefs.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said The Satanic Temple “failed to demonstrate that its alleged cost of compliance or threat of prosecution amounts to injury.”

“The Satanic Temple had an opportunity to submit evidence,” but it “failed on all fronts,” Magnus-Stinson continued.

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The Satanic Temple’s lawsuit specifically sought to allow mail-order abortion drugs for its members in Indiana to have abortions. The temple operates a telehealth clinic based in New Mexico.

The plaintiffs said in their original complaint that Indiana’s ban makes the exercise of the Satanic abortion “ritual” a crime, and that Indiana’s restrictions violate the rights of Hoosier Satanists who could become pregnant if their birth control fails.

But the temple refused to name any of its members or leadership in the lawsuit, citing the need to protect itself from “exposure to violence.” Magnus-Stinson said without being able to show whether any of its members are actually being harmed by the ban, the temple doesn’t have grounds to bring the lawsuit.

Indiana Supreme Court won’t rehear near-total abortion ban ruling, putting law back in effect

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita called the lawsuit “ridiculous” in a statement Thursday. He said, too, that the win “sustains a pro-life law that is constitutionally and legally sound.”

“We Hoosiers continue to build a solid culture of life whether satanic cultists like it or not,” Rokita added.

In earlier court filings, Rokita — on behalf of the state — argued that the group didn’t have standing to sue because it had not submitted evidence showing that specific members would be harmed by the law.

A separate challenge to Indiana’s abortion law, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana, is still pending, however. That lawsuit also uses the state’s RFRA law 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 a narrow preliminary injunction previously issued in the religious freedom case is set for Dec. 6.

Indiana’s new abortion law, which passed in 2022, outlaws all abortions except in the case of a fatal fetal anomaly and cases of serious health risk to the mother. One part of the law says these exceptions are up to 20 weeks but another part says they can be used anytime.

Rape survivors can get an abortion up to 10 weeks post-fertilization. It also strips abortion clinics of their state medical licenses, and provides that only hospitals and hospital-owned ambulatory surgical centers can provide abortions.

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Casey Smith, Indiana Capital Chronicle
Casey Smith, Indiana Capital Chronicle

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.

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