The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear an abortion clinic’s challenge to an Indiana law that required clinics to bury or cremate the remains of aborted or miscarried unborn babies.
The law, which was signed in 2016 by former Vice President Mike Pence while he was Indiana governor, was intended to ensure the “respectful disposition of human remains,” according to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. The Supreme Court has ruled on the requirement before: In 2019, it upheld the law, finding that Indiana had a “legitimate interest in proper disposal of fetal remains.”
This second challenge was brought in 2020 by Women’s Med Group abortion clinic, along with its owner, three anonymous women and two of the clinic’s nurses, who argue that the law compels women seeking abortion to agree that “an embryo is the ontological and spiritual equivalent of a person.”
“These laws also send the unmistakable message that someone who has had an abortion or miscarriage is responsible for the death of a person,” they write in the complaint. “As a result, they have caused many abortion and miscarriage patients, including Jane Doe Nos. 1, 2, and 3, to experience shame, stigma, anguish, and anger.”
The plaintiffs were represented by the Lawyering Project, which works to “uses the law to improve abortion access and uphold the rights and dignity of people seeking and providing abortion care.”
The Supreme Court declined to take the case, allowing the Seventh Circuit’s decision upholding the law to stand.
“This mandate applies only to providers; women may choose to take custody of the remains and dispose of them as they please,” the court noted, reversing the lower court’s decision.
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