December 7, 2023

Abortion rights protesters chant during a session of the Indiana State Senate at the Capitol on July 25, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The legislature considered restricting abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

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Indiana on Friday became the first state in the nation to pass abortion restrictions since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as the Republican governor quickly signed a near-total ban on the procedure shortly after lawmakers approved it.

The ban, which takes effect on September 15, includes some exceptions. Abortions would be allowed in cases of rape and incest, before 10 weeks after fertilization. to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality. Victims of rape and incest will not be required to sign a notarized affidavit of assault; as was once suggested.

Under the bill, abortions can only be performed in hospitals or hospital-owned outpatient centers, meaning all abortion clinics would lose their licenses. A doctor who performs an illegal abortion or fails to file required reports must also lose his medical license — wording that tightens current Indiana law that says a doctor “may” lose his license.

“I am personally very proud of every Hoosier who has come forward to courageously share their views in a debate that is unlikely to stop anytime soon,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in the statement announcing he signed the measure. “For my part as your captain, I will continue to keep my ears open.”

His approval came after the Senate approved the ban 28-19 and the House advanced it 62-38.

Indiana was among the first Republican-led state lawmakers to discuss tougher abortion laws after Supreme Court ruling in June which removed constitutional protection for the process. But it is the first state to pass a ban through both chambers, since West Virginia legislators on July 29 missed the opportunity to be that state.

“I’m glad to be done with this, one of the most challenging things 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’re going to take advantage of it as we go from here.”

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Sen. Sue Glick of LaGrange, who sponsored the bill, said she doesn’t think “every state is going to come down to the same place” but that most Indiana residents support aspects of the bill.

Some senators in both parties protested the bill’s provisions and the impact it would have on the state, including low-income women and the health care system. Eight Republicans participated and 11 Democrats voted against the bill, though their reasons for defeating the measure were mixed.

“We’re giving up on democracy,” said Democratic Sen. Jean Brough of Indianapolis, who wore a green ribbon Friday signifying support for abortion rights on her lapel. “What other freedoms, what other freedoms are there in the piece, waiting to be stripped?”

Republican Sen. Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores spoke about his 21-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome. Bohacek voted against the bill, saying it doesn’t provide enough protections for women with disabilities who are raped.

“If she lost her favorite stuffed animal, she’d be inconsolable. Imagine forcing her to carry a child to term,” he said before choking up, then tossing his notes on his seat and walking out of the room.

Republican Sen. Mike Young of Indianapolis, however, said the bill’s anti-doctor enforcement provisions are not strong enough.

Such debates showed how Indiana residents are divided on the issue, as seen in hours of testimony heard by lawmakers over the past two weeks. Residents rarely, if ever, voiced support for the legislation in their testimony, as abortion rights advocates said the bill goes too far, while anti-abortion activists said it doesn’t go far enough.

The debates came amid an evolving landscape of abortion politics across the country, as Republicans grapple with some partisan divides and Democrats see a potential push during the election year.

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 friendliest states in the nation.”

Outside the chambers, abortion rights activists often chanted over the lawmakers’ comments, holding signs such as “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 a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate 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 topic during legislative debates, both in resident testimony and in comments from lawmakers.

In arguing against the House bill, Rep. Ann Vermilion condemned fellow Republicans for calling women “murderers” for having abortions.

“I think the Lord’s promise is for grace and goodness,” he said. “He wouldn’t jump to condemn these women.”

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