abotation State Brief Cites Religion In Defending Fetal-Remains Statute In U. S.Dave Stafford for www.theindianalawyer.comThe state is continuing to defend Indiana’s fetal-remains statute that a federal judge blocked after a U.S. Supreme Court decision this year reinforced prohibitions against laws restricting a woman’s right to abortion. The state is relying in part on “astonishing” religious practices to make its case.Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is defending House Enrolled Act 1337 that Gov. Mike Pence signed into law this year. The statute requiring burial or cremation of fetal tissue was barred from taking effect when District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted an injunction blocking its enforcement.Pratt ruled that Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky had shown that law’s requirements weren’t legitimate state interests, the law was likely unconstitutional, and Planned Parenthood was likely to win its challenge to the law.Pratt’s ruling in June came days after the United States Supreme Court struck down a Texas law in a 5-3 decision that said strict new regulations on abortion clinics were unnecessary and constituted an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion. Planned Parenthood this week moved for summary judgment in its favor.The state also has moved for summary judgment in its favor. A 44-page brief in support of the motion filed Wednesday lays out the state’s legal arguments about why the fetal-remains provisions are compelling state interests. But the state also relies on religious arguments, citing such authorities as the web page “10 Astonishing Death Customs of Hindus.”“In Hindu culture, the body of a miscarried fetus is always buried (rather than cremated, as is usually done for adults) to liberate the soul inside of the child,” according to the state’s brief.“Multiple Christian denominations also treat fetal remains the same as human remains. … The Roman Catholic Church is among this group. Catholic churches across the country bury miscarried or stillborn fetuses, holding ceremonies that resemble traditional funerals.“In short, there exists within American (and Hoosier) society substantial and diverse religious, cultural, and historical tradition for proper humane disposal of fetal remains, regardless whether the fetus was viable,” the state says. It also cites traditions of the Antiochean Orthodox Church and the General Association of General Baptists.The state’s brief also argues that the requirement would increase the cost of an abortion by only $6 to $12. “Such a marginal increase in cost cannot plausibly call into question the validity of the disposal requirement,” the brief says.The statute, which proponents dubbed the “Dignity for the Unborn” law, also would have prevented abortions on the basis of genetic abnormality, race, sex or ancestry. The state argues these restrictions are compelling interests in preventing discrimination while respecting a woman’s privacy interests.“The mother’s right to abortion is not so absolute that she may freely make an abortion decision based not only on whether she wants to have a baby at all, but also based on whether a particular baby is to her liking in terms of race, sex and disability,” the state asserts.“States are well within their constitutional authority to create informed consent provisions for abortion procedures,” the brief argues in support of another provision of HEA 1337 that requires information be provided about its anti-discrimination provisions. “Within this latitude, states may encourage women to carry the child rather than undergo an abortion.”In her June order granting an injunction, Pratt also said Planned Parenthood “clearly demonstrated that the anti-discrimination provisions and the information dissemination provision should be enjoined pending resolution of this litigation. It is likely to succeed on the merits of its challenges to these provisions as the anti-discrimination provisions directly contravene well-established law that precludes a state from prohibiting a woman from electing to have an abortion prior to fetal viability. Similarly, the information dissemination provision is likely unconstitutional as it requires abortion providers to convey false information regarding the anti-discrimination provisions to their patients.”FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmail
× JERSEY CITY – After a July 23 meeting between Jersey City officials and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, an agreement was reached regarding Jersey City’s attempt to pull back from prosecuting marijuana offenders.After the city prosecutor and Mayor Steven Fulop introduced a policy of not prosecuting first-time offenders, the state’s attorney general said the city had no authority to make such a change. But a July 24 a memo from Grewal, issued to all 21 county prosecutors, directed a 30-day adjournment of all marijuana charges, pending soon-to-be developed statewide guidelines for downgrading and dismissing low-level marijuana offenses.“This is a huge win for Jersey City, the state of New Jersey, and most importantly the people who would have been impacted by the creation of a criminal record due to a simple marijuana arrest,” said Fulop. “We are excited that Attorney General Grewal and Jersey City found common ground, avoiding the collateral consequences of convictions for marijuana possession while our great state is on the cusp of legalization.”On July 18, Fulop and Jersey City Chief Prosecutor Jake Hudnut announced that the city would either dismiss simple marijuana possession cases in the municipal courts or amend such charges to local ordinance violations, effectively decriminalizing marijuana in Jersey City.But on July 20, Grewal voided the policy. But on July 23, “in light of public support for the policy” according to the release, Jersey City officials from the Municipal Prosecutor’s office, the Department of Public Safety, and the Law Department met with Grewal to discuss how decriminalization can be implemented both in Jersey City and across New Jersey.Grewal will convene a working group of criminal justice stakeholders this summer – including Hudnut – to study the issue and advise the attorney general on statewide solutions to achieve the similar aims to decriminalization, but in accordance with existing state law and court rules.Grewal’s July 24 directive will provide guidance on when to downgrade or dismiss marijuana cases. The aim is to avoid disorderly person misdemeanor convictions for simple possession while New Jersey is on the verge of legalization of marijuana, as well as looking at the consequences that come with those convictions, which could include driver’s license suspension, criminal records, loss of student financial aid, bans from public housing, adverse effects on employment opportunities, and loss of immigration status.Grewal has directed all municipal prosecutors to seek adjournments of open marijuana cases until after Sept. 4, pending the new guidelines from the attorney general. The measure, according to the city, could amount to a moratorium or a substantial reduction in marijuana convictions in New Jersey between now and legalization.