INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana on Friday became the first state in the nation to approve abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as the Republican governor quickly signed a near-total ban on the procedure shortly after lawmakers approved it.
There are some exceptions to this ban which goes into effect on Sept. 15. Incest and cases of rape would allow abortions to be performed before 10 weeks after fertilization. This is done in order to preserve the physical and mental health of the mother and for any fetal anomalies. As was previously proposed, victims of incest and rape would no longer be required to sign an affidavit notarizing that they were attacked.
This bill would allow abortions to only be performed in hospitals and outpatient centres owned by hospitals. It also means that all licensed abortion clinics could lose their licenses. A doctor who performs an illegal abortion or fails to file required reports must also lose their medical license — wording that tightens current Indiana law that says a doctor “may” lose their license.
“I am personally most proud of each Hoosier who came forward to courageously share their views in a debate that is unlikely to cease any time soon,” Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that he signed the measure in a statement. “For my part as your governor, I will continue to keep an open ear.”
After the Senate had approved the ban, 28-19, and the House having advanced it 62–38, his approval was granted.
Indiana was the first Republican-run state legislature to consider tighter abortion laws following the Supreme Court decision in June that removed constitutional protections. After West Virginia lawmakers rejected the possibility of becoming that state on July 29, Indiana is now the first to ban abortion in each chamber.
“Happy to be completed with this, one of the more challenging things that we’ve ever done as a state General Assembly, at least certainly while I’ve been here,” Senate President Pro-Tem Rodric Bray told reporters after the vote. “ I think this is a huge opportunity, and we’ll build on that as we go forward from here.”
Sen. Sue Glick of LaGrange, who sponsored the bill, said that she does not think “all states will come down at the same place” but that most Indiana residents support aspects of the bill.
Some senators in both parties lamented the bill’s provisions and the impact it would have on the state, including low-income women and the health care system. Eight Republicans voted against the bill along with 11 Democrats, although their motives for opposing the measure were varied.
“We are backsliding on democracy,” said Democratic Sen. Jean Breaux of Indianapolis, who wore a green ribbon Friday signifying support for abortion rights, on her lapel. “What other freedoms, what other liberties are on the chopping block, waiting to be stripped away?”
Republican Sen. Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores spoke about his 21-year-old-daughter, who has Down syndrome. Bohacek voted no on the bill as it lacks adequate protections for women who are raped by people with disabilities.
“If she lost her favorite stuffed animal, she’d be inconsolable. Imagine making her carry a child to term,” he said before he started to choke up, then threw his notes on his seat and exited the chamber.
Republican Sen. Mike Young of Indianapolis, however, said the bill’s enforcement provisions against doctors are not stringent enough.
Such debates demonstrated Indiana residents’ own divisions on the issue, displayed in hours of testimony lawmakers heard over the past two weeks. Residents rarely, if ever, expressed support for the the legislation in their testimony, as abortion-rights supporters said the bill goes too far while anti-abortion activists expressed it doesn’t go far enough.
These debates took place amid a changing landscape in abortion politics throughout the country, as Republicans faced some party divisions while Democrats saw a potential election-year boost.
Republican Rep. Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who sponsored the House bill, told reporters after the House vote that the legislation “makes Indiana one of the most pro-life states in the nation.”
Outside the chambers, abortion-rights activists often chanted over lawmakers’ remarks, carrying signs like “Roe roe roe your vote” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some House Democrats wore blazers over pink “Bans Off Our Bodies” T-shirts.
Indiana’s ban followed the political firestorm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to end her pregnancy. The case gained attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child came to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” ban.
Religion was a persistent theme during legislative debates, both in residents’ testimony and lawmakers’ comments.
In advocating against the House bill, Rep. Ann Vermilion condemned fellow Republicans who have called women “murderers” for getting an abortion.
“I think that the Lord’s promise is for grace and kindness,” she said. “He would not be jumping to condemn these women.”
Arleigh Rodgers works as a corps member for Report for America Statehouse News Initiative/Associated Press. Report for America, a non-profit national service program, places journalists in local newsrooms so they can report on unreported issues. Follow her @ https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers
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