October 4, 2022


The Indiana Legislature became the first in the nation to pass new legislation restricting access to abortion after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has not indicated whether he will sign it.

Indiana was one of the first state legislatures to be controlled by Republicans to discuss stricter abortion laws following a Supreme Court ruling in June that removed constitutional protections for the process. It is the first state to pass a ban in both houses since West Virginia lawmakers on July 29 missed out on being that state.

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

The Senate approved the near-total ban 28-19, hours after House members pushed it 62-38.

It includes limited exceptions, including in cases of rape and incest, as well as to protect the life and physical health of the mother. Exceptions for rape and incest are limited to 10 weeks after fertilization, meaning victims could not get an abortion in Indiana after that. Victims would not be required to sign a notarized affidavit of assault.

Republican Rep. Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who sponsored the bill, told reporters after the House vote that the legislation “makes Indiana one of the friendliest states in the nation.”

Outside the House chamber, abortion rights activists often chanted about 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.

The House added exceptions to protect the health and life of the mother after repeated requests from doctors and others. It also allows abortions if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.

Indiana lawmakers heard hours of testimony over the past two weeks in which residents on all sides of the issue rarely, if ever, supported the legislation. Abortion rights advocates said the bill goes too far, while anti-abortion activists said it doesn’t go far enough.

The House also rejected, largely along party lines, a Democratic proposal to put a non-binding question on the statewide November ballot: “Shall abortion remain legal in Indiana?”

The proposal came after Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to crack down on abortion in the first test of voter sentiment on the issue since Roe was overturned.

Indiana House Speaker Todd Houston told reporters that if residents are unhappy, they can vote for new lawmakers.

“Ultimately it’s up to the Senate,” he said. “Voters have a chance to vote, and if they’re unhappy, they’ll have a chance both in November and in years to come.”

Indiana’s proposed ban also came after a political firestorm over 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.

Democratic Rep. Maureen Bauer spoke tearfully before Friday’s vote about the people in her South Bend district who oppose the bill — husbands standing behind their wives, fathers standing up for their daughters — as well as women. “which require us to be considered equals.”

Bauer’s comments were followed by loud cheers from protesters in the aisle and subdued applause from his fellow Democrats.

“You might not have thought these women would show up,” Bauer said. “Maybe you thought we wouldn’t care.”

West Virginia lawmakers on July 29 missed a chance to become the first state with a unified ban after the House of Representatives refused to agree to Senate amendments that would remove criminal penalties for doctors who perform illegal abortions. Instead, the delegates asked a conference committee to look at the details between the bills.

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

Religion was a persistent topic during the special session, both in resident testimony and in comments from lawmakers.

In arguing against the bill, Rep. Ann Vermilion condemned her fellow Republicans, calling women who had abortions “murderers.”

“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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