“Pregnancy is a private and personal decision and should not require the permission of any politician.”
That’s a line from a poem recited Monday evening on the Monroe County courthouse lawn, a traditional Bloomington venue for protests and demonstrations.
Delivering the verse, which was written by youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman, was Bloomington resident Amalia Shifriss.
Addressing around 80 people who had gathered on the lawn, Shifriss was the final speaker for the event, which was described as an ‘abortion ban vigil’ by the organizers—Hoosier Jews for Choice and Monroe County Now.
Shifriss is a founding member of Hoosier Jews for Choice, which is one of the plaintiffs in pending litigation over SB1, which is a nearly complete ban on abortions in the state of Indiana.
SB1 was enacted by Indiana’s state legislature in a special session held in 2022, coming shortly after the Dobbs ruling by the US Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade.
The timing of Monday’s vigil, on the last day of July, was tied to a decision by Indiana’s Supreme Court issued on June 30, which vacated a preliminary injunction in a different lawsuit over SB1—which was filed by Planned Parenthood in Monroe County’s circuit court.
The preliminary injunction, issued in September 2022, had prevented the enforcement of SB1, pending the outcome of the trial. But when the state’s highest court vacated the preliminary injunction, that meant just a 30-day timeframe for the court’s order to be certified, putting the court’s order into effect, thereby putting SB1’s abortion ban into effect.
Another complicating factor is the pending lawsuit filed by Hoosier Jews for Choice, in the Marion County circuit court, which also has a related preliminary injunction. That injunction applies just to the plaintiffs in the case, but the judge certified a class for the case, making it a class action. There’s some uncertainty about whether the preliminary injunction applies also to the class, not just the specified plaintiffs.
After the vigil, Shruti Rana, president of Monroe County NOW, told The B Square that the ACLU had filed a petition for a rehearing by the Indiana Supreme Court for the case that originated in Monroe County. That could mean a new injunction against enforcement of SB1 while the state’s highest court considers the petition for a rehearing, she said.
Rana called the situation “really murky” describing it as “uncharted legal territory.” Rana is a professor of law at in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.
A Democrat, Rana is also the presumptive winner of the District 5 Bloomington city council race, as the only candidate on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Several Democrats who are already serving as local elected officials attended or spoke at Monday evening’s vigil.
The whole program of speakers included: Forest Beeley (state programs coordinator from All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center); Haddie Katz (clinical services director from Tandem Birthing Services); state senator Shelli Yoder; county commissioner Penny Githens; county councilor Jennifer Crossley; city councilmember Sue Sgambelluri; Josefa Madrigal (Bloomington mayor’s office chief of staff); and Ximena Martinez Ruiz (Bloomington mayor’s office Latino Outreach Coordinator).
Crossley did not attend—she was at the time chairing a meeting of the county council’s justice fiscal advisory committee (JFAC).
Vigil attendees also included other Democratic Party nominees for city office in the fall election: Hopi Stosberg (District 3 city council); Sydney Zulich (District 6 city council); and Kerry Thomson (Bloomington mayor).
In her remarks to the crowd, Githens said that the county government cannot address many topics, due to action by the state legislature. She put it like this: “At the county level, due to what the state has done with a municipal preemption law, we cannot enact our own legislation to allow abortions within the borders of our county.”
Githens continued, “Our hands are tied. They’re tied when it comes to gun safety. They’re tied when it comes to abortion. They’re tied when it comes to school funding. They’re tied at so many levels.”
Githens said that people who have the means will just travel out of state to get abortions.
In her remarks, Yoder predicted that the state legislature would seek to prohibit travel in order to obtain abortions. She said, “If you think they are stopping here, you are wrong. …”
Yoder continued, saying “Because they are coming for whatever rights. Traveling? They are coming for us.”
Yoder added, “Choice is what democracy is built on. And every choice we have, they’re going to slowly take away those freedoms and those rights, and erode democracy.”