INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s newest state Supreme Court justice was ceremonially sworn in Tuesday, roughly two months before the Court hears a lawsuit challenging Indiana’s near-total ban on abortion.
The suit was filed by abortion providers alleging a right to privacy violation under the Indiana Constitution.
Justice Derek Molter joined the bench in September, succeeding retiring Justice Steven David.
“I’m now joining a group of people on the Supreme Court who I respect greatly and who have the institution at a high point,” Molter said at Tuesday’s ceremony.
Jody Madeira, a professor at the IU Maurer School of Law, said Molter’s appointment likely won’t mean any change in the ideological makeup of the Court. All five justices have been appointed by Republican governors.
“Judges that are appointed by Republican governors are more likely to be conservative,” Madeira said.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Court will uphold the state’s near-total ban on abortion when it considers the lawsuit early next year, Madeira said.
The abortion law remains on hold after an Owen County judge, Republican Kelsey Hanlon, granted a preliminary injunction.
“I think that the conclusions will be similar because she applied the same method,” Madeira said. “She referred to the Constitution and how it had been interpreted, and she applied really the same originalist interpretation.”
“If it is struck down, then that means lawmakers will have another opportunity to revisit the law,” explained Laura Wilson, who teaches political science at the University of Indianapolis.
The timing of the hearing is significant as well, Wilson noted. A ruling is likely to come while Indiana lawmakers are in session, giving Republicans time to pass a new abortion bill if this law is struck down.
“I have no doubt that some lawmakers may even have some things set to go, depending on what that ruling is, so they would be able to jumpstart that process,” Wilson said.
The Indiana Supreme Court hearing is set for January 12.