Explanation of the Indiana Supreme Court ruling on the Abortion Act


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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied an Indiana state appeal to reinstate a strict abortion law that banned the procedure based on so-called fetal characteristics such as race, gender, or disability.

However, it upheld that part of the law that required abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains.

But what does that actually mean?

I asked Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, to help me break it down.

[READ MORE: Supreme Court Sidesteps Abortion Question in Ruling on Indiana Law]

Adopted in 2016 and signed by Governor Mike Pence, now Vice President, the Indiana law Prohibited abortions at any time during pregnancy because a mother had an objection to the race or sex of the fetus or a disability such as Down syndrome.

The law also placed restrictions on the disposal of fetal remains, so abortion providers had to bury or cremate them, although a woman could dispose of the remains outside of the clinic herself. The law allowed mass cremations.

Liptak called the determination of fetal characteristics “quite radical” because it banned all abortions if they were performed for any of these reasons. “It runs right in Roe,” he said.

In comparison, the supply of fetal remains is “pretty mild,” Liptak said.

No part of the law had been previously enforced as both were blocked by lower courts before going into effect, Liptak said. But with the Supreme Court ruling, the determination of the fetal remains will most likely be carried out in a matter of weeks.

By circumventing the determination of the fetal characteristics of the two-part law, the judges set a test for Roe v. Wade to the test.

The judges took “incremental steps,” said Liptak, who reported the verdict.

“They stepped into this area on tiptoe, reintroducing the fetal remains law, which is a type of abortion, but they don’t move fast,” he said. “You are taking your time to resolve a major abortion case.”

The case also marked the first test of such a problem since Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh succeeded Judge Anthony M. Kennedy last year. Judge Kennedy was a cautious advocate of abortion law, according to Liptak, while Judge Kavanaugh’s limited record on the matter suggested some skepticism.

The verdict holds Abortion off the files of the Supreme Court for now, and the compromise suggests that the court may be biding its time to handle a major abortion case, even if several bills restricting access to abortion made their way through the statehouses.

The part of the Fetal Remnant Disposal Act was rejected by lower courts on the grounds that it was not rational – women were allowed to dispose of the fetus at will, while abortion providers had to be cremated or buried. The decision has nothing to do with whether or not a fetus is considered a person, Liptak said.

By asking the judges to restore that part of the law, which they did, the lawyers argued that the remains of the fetus were worthy of respectful treatment.

“The fetal disposition provision expands the longstanding legal and cultural traditions of recognizing the dignity and humanity of the fetus.” the State said.

Arkansas and Georgia share similar burials and cremations Regulations in force. Ohio, Mississippi and South Carolina have also considered such requirements in recent years.

In March, South Dakota made it illegal to use aborted fetal tissue in research, and in April, Alabama and Idaho made it illegal to buy, sell, donate, or experiment with these remains.

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Here are five articles from The Times you might have missed.

Baby Jane Dexter, a fixture on the New York cabaret scene who returned in the 1980s after a long hiatus in dealing with depression with performances that turned her difficulties into teaching moments, died last week at the age of 72.

In performances and workshops for women, Dexter told of a violent rape that she immortalized in “15 Ugly Minutes”, one of her signature songs.

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