Clips, links for ‘Swedes in Roger Williams’ Garden’

The evening before Indiana’s extreme new anti-abortion law went into effect, protesters gathered at the county courthouse in Bloomington, Ind., for a Jewish Havdalah ceremony marking what they see as a transition from “an era of full rights […] into a darker time,” as Illinois gears up for an influx of doctors and patients from the neighboring state.

That was the takeaway from a roundup today in Rich Miller’s Capitol state politics and government blog headlined “How Indiana’s abortion ban will affect Illinois.” The item, aggregating several stories in Indiana that have a bearing on health care delivery in Illinois as well, brought into sharp relief why the separation of church and state is such a good idea.

And it gives me more data points for my Swedes in Roger Williams’ Garden project, as I wrap my head around how immigrants navigate America’s heritage of cultural and religious pluralism. So I’m archiving the stories here.

For one thing, when the line of separation is blurred — as it has become since Roe v. Wade was struck down in June — it allows states to enact sectarian dogma and behavioral norms into law. That is exactly what is happening in Indiana, where a near-total abortion ban is going into effect. This principle, which comes near to establishing a theological principle on the origin of life and prohibiting the free exercise of religion by those who do not share that belief, is illustrated in a story, on WPTA in Fort Wayne, picked up in the CapFax roundup.

The story cites an Indiana University med school survey reporting “80% of trainees said they were less likely to stay and practice in Indiana after the near-total abortion ban goes into effect” and quotes an Indianapolis doctor who said she plans to move her practice to Illinois. (That would be feasible — it’s only an hour and a half commute from Indy to Danville.) When a reporter for WPTA asked an anti-abortion activist her reaction, she replied, “To see an OBGYN who has been killing half of her patients leave Indiana is not something I’m going to cry over. […] It’s actually something to celebrate.” A theological opinion to which she is entitled, but perhaps not an appropriate constitutional basis for state law.

Other sectarian beliefs come into play in Indiana. CapFax also carried a Planned Parenthood of Illinois press release announcing an expansion of its Champaign women’s health center. “Currently, 11 percent of the abortion patients seen at the Champaign health center are from Indiana,” said PPIL. “This number is expected to increase now that the Indiana abortion ban is in effect. In addition to abortion care, patients coming from Indiana are also seeking gender-affirming care and other reproductive and family planning services.” More sectarian dogma crossing state lines.

What makes the CapFax item stand out, at least to me, is that it touches on the faith-based challenges to a law “rooted in a particular Christian ideology that goes against the Jewish tradition and beliefs that I uphold and my community upholds,” to quote Elly Cohen, co-chair of Hoosier Jews for Choice. She was an organizer of the vigil, adapted from a ceremony that marks the gathering darkness at the end of the Jewish Sabbath.

Cohen’s group has also joined litigation challenging the abortion ban on First Amendment grounds. The Associated Press story on an ACLU lawsuit challenging the law also cites “theological teachings allowing abortion in at least some circumstances by Islamic, Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist and Pagan faiths.” But by and large the secular media have neglected the threat not only to minority religions but to the American tradition of religious pluralism as well.

Verbatim excerpts from the articles aggregated in CapFax follow. All links are those in the original stories:

Hoosier Jews for Choice vigil in Bloomington, Ind.

Over a hundred people gathered closely together in the lawn of the Monroe County Courthouse to hear a modified version of the Jewish ceremony Havdalah. As one member spoke a Hebrew prayer, another carefully guarded a braided candle against intruding winds.

In Jewish tradition, the ceremony separates the holy day of Shabbat from an average day. It separates rest and work, lightness and darkness, Hoosier Jews for Choice member Sue Swartz explained. On Wednesday night, vigil organizers marked this as a separation between having abortion rights and not having them.

“Through this ritual, we mark the end of an era of full rights and a transition into a darker time,” Swartz said.


The event was organized by Hoosier Jews for Choice and Monroe County NOW with several local co-sponsors such as All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center and Monroe County Women’s Commission. Elly Cohen, co-chair of Hoosier Jews for Choice, noted the event was intended to inspire people to become politically active and gather closely within a sense of community.

According to Cohen, in Judaism, personhood doesn’t begin until birth. She also noted Jewish law allows abortion if that person’s life is at risk, “and that risk can be defined rather broadly.”

“The abortion ban is underscored by a particular and narrow understanding of personhood in a pregnancy that is rooted in a particular Christian ideology that goes against the Jewish tradition and beliefs that I uphold and my community upholds,” Cohen said.


Other organizations are also fighting back through the legal system. A lawsuit filed in Monroe Circuit Court by the ACLU of Indiana on behalf of Indiana abortion clinics and providers will be considered in the county. Hoosier Jews for Choice is a plaintiff in another lawsuit arguing the abortion ban violates the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents the government from impeding someone’s religious exercise unless there’s a strong argument in favor of the state’s interest.

AP story on the ACLU litigation

[On Sept. 9, a lawsuit was filed in Monroe County, Ind., (Bloomington). AP reported:]

The lawsuit filed in Marion County court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of five anonymous residents and the group Hoosier Jews for Choice argues that the ban would violate their religious rights on when they believe abortion is acceptable. They are citing a state law that then-Gov. Mike Pence signed over the objections of critics who said it allows discrimination against gay people.

Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana’s legal director, said in a statement that the religious-freedom law protects “all Hoosiers, not just those who practice Christianity.”

“The ban on abortion will substantially burden the exercise of religion by many Hoosiers who, under the new law, would be prevented from obtaining abortions, in conflict with their sincere religious beliefs,” Falk said.


The ACLU’s lawsuit contends that the new abortion ban would violate Jewish teaching that “a fetus attains the status of a living person only at birth” and that “Jewish law stresses the necessity of protecting the life and physical and mental health of the mother prior to birth as the fetus is not yet deemed to be a person.” It also cites theological teachings allowing abortion in at least some circumstances by Islamic, Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist and Pagan faiths.


Daniel Conkle, an Indiana University law professor who testified in support of the state’s religious freedom law during the 2015 legislative debate, said it will be difficult to use that law to argue against the abortion ban. He said the ACLU will have to show that a person “would be relying upon their religious beliefs in a substantial way” in seeking an abortion.

“I don’t think it’s enough simply that their religion does not recognize a prohibition on abortion,” Conkle said. “I think it has to be more in the way of a substantial motivation than that.”

Fort Wayne TV report: OB-GYNs leaving Indiana

[…] I

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) – The new Indiana abortion law is forcing doctors to leave the state, including an Indianapolis OB-GYN who says she can’t continue to provide essential care for her patients.

Beginning Thursday September 15th, residents in Indiana cannot get an abortion except for cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother. The procedure is only allowed to be performed in hospitals as well.

Indianapolis OB-GYN Dr. Katie McGugh is a born and raised Hoosier. She’s been practicing obstetrics and gynecology for several years in Indiana. She also perfors abortions. When the Indiana abortion restrictions go into effect Thursday, she is planning to move her practice to Illinois.

According to a survey at the IU School of Medicine, 80% of trainees said they were less likely to stay and practice in Indiana after the near-total abortion ban goes into effect. Many doctors say they don’t feel like they can give patients the healthcare they need without being able to perform abortions legally.

“With the ban on abortion access in Indiana, it has become impossible for me to practice my chosen profession which is OB-GYN. That inherently includes abortion care because we know part of a woman’s reproductive life span includes abortions,” McHugh said.


Our Digging Deeper team asked [Education Coordinator for Northeast Indiana Right to Life Abigail] Lorenzen what she thought about doctors leaving the state because of the law. She says it’s something they are celebrating.

“We have really incredible pro-life OBGYNS in Indiana. To see an OBGYN who has been killing half of her patients leave Indiana is not something I’m going to cry over,” Lorenzen said. “It’s actually something to celebrate.”

Our team also asked Lorenzen about the doctors who say they’re leaving the state in order to provide healthcare for woman.

“The first thing is, abortion is not healthcare. Abortion always injures the mother,” Lorenzen said. “Woman’s lives are not in danger because of this new law.”

Cites and Links

Tom Davies, “Indiana abortion ban challenged under religious freedom law,” Associated Press, Sept. 8, 2022

Isabell Miller, “How Indiana’s abortion ban will affect Illinois,” Capitol, Sept. 15, 2022

Rachel Smith, “Mourning the dawn of Indiana’s abortion law, protesters gather at Monroe County Courthouse,” Herald-Times [Bloomington, Ind.], Sept. 15, 2022

Karli VanCleave, “Indiana doctor moving practice to Illinois after abortion law goes into effect,” WPTA-TV, Channel 21, Fort Wayne, Ind., Sept. 14, 2022

[Uplinked Sept. 17, 2022]

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