The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a split verdict on an Indiana abortion law, upholding restrictions on the disposal of fetal remains following an abortion while letting stand a lower court’s ruling that invalidated restrictions on abortion when the baby’s race or potential disability is in question.
Without the usual merit briefing and oral arguments, the Supreme Court sided in favor of Indiana’s 2016 law requiring that the disposal of fetal remains following an abortion be buried or cremated as required of other human remains.
The Supreme Court, however, refused to consider the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruling against prohibiting disability- or gender-selective abortions.
The Indiana law, signed by then Gov. Mike Pence, prohibited abortions, at any time during a pregnancy, when based solely on a fetus’s gender, race, national origin or potential diagnosis of Down Syndrome or “any other disability.”
The Indiana Legislature had approved the abortion-restrictive measures to address what they called “discriminatory abortions” made possible by genetic testing during pregnancies.
In its three-page unsigned decision, the Supreme Court stated it “expresses no view on the merits of … whether Indiana may prohibit the knowing provision of sex-, race-, and disability-selective abortions by abortion providers. Only the Seventh Circuit has thus far addressed this kind of law. We follow our ordinary practice of denying petitions insofar as they raise legal issues that have not been considered by additional Courts of Appeals.”
In a statement to The New York Times on Tuesday, Vice President Pence said he “commends the Supreme Court for upholding a portion of Indiana law that safeguards the sanctity of human life by requiring that remains of aborted babies be treated with respect and dignity.”
“We remain hopeful,” the statement said, “that at a later date the Supreme Court will review one of numerous state laws across the U.S. that bar abortion based on sex, race or disability.”
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Franklin Graham commended Pence for defending the sanctity of human life as governor and vice president. “Thank you Vice President Pence for doing the right thing and for boldly defending life,” Graham wrote.
In his 20-page statement on the ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas said the high court must address discriminatory allowances for abortion.
“Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever. Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this Court is dutybound to address its scope.
“The Court’s decision to allow further percolation should not be interpreted as agreement with the decisions below. Enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex, or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement.”