Indiana’s Republican-controlled state legislature has approved a bill to ban nearly all abortions, making Indiana the first state to pass new legislation to severely restrict access to abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it. Roe v. Wade.
The bill’s passage also comes as Kansas voters reject an effort to roll back abortion rights in that state, and after the case of a 10-year-old rape survivor in Ohio — who sought an abortion in Indiana after her state banned abortions — drew international control.
At least 10 states have effectively banned abortion since the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling. Anti-abortion lawmakers are expected to push for more restrictions in nearly half of the US in the coming weeks and months. If signed into law, Indiana bill effective September 15.
Anti-abortion lawmakers frequently cited their Christian faith during the Indiana House of Representatives debate on Aug. 5, while at least one GOP lawmaker warned that the state would face God’s wrath by allowing any abortions under any circumstances.
After the final 62-38 vote in the chamber, one protester shouted “shame on you, Indiana.” Outside the doors, a crowd of protesters chanted “shame on you”.
The bill then passed the Senate by a vote of 28-19. It is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Following amendments by the House, the bill prohibits abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with exceptions only in cases of rape or incest, “lethal fetal abnormality” or to prevent “permanent harm to the life or physical health of the pregnant woman”.
Survivors of rape or incest can only request an abortion up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. According to Indiana state statute, incest does not include sexual conduct with a cousin.
“There is no scientific reason for 10 weeks,” Democratic Sen. Shelli Yoder said on the Senate floor Aug. 5. “That’s a number that seemed kind enough for Republicans to send a message.”
Providers performing illegal abortions would also have their licenses revoked.
The legislation — which passed within two weeks at the start of a special legislative session called by the governor — has not been considered in the state Legislature’s health committees. Instead, it was sent to commissions reviewing the criminal code.
“We need to stop calling ourselves pro-life”
Republican state Rep. Ann Vermillion, among a handful of Republicans in the state House to support an unsuccessful amendment to allow abortion up to 13 weeks, voted against the bill, citing her “ideological” transformation in recent weeks on the issue.
“I believe that no government should take away the right to safe medical care,” she said in her emotional comments on the House floor. “She should be able to choose her life and well-being during an emotional and traumatic time.”
He also condemned the frequent injection of Christianity and the long debate and called the GOP’s anti-abortion rhetoric “propaganda.”
“After these two weeks, I am imploring our Republican party to reconsider the word … ‘pro-life.’ I think we should stop calling ourselves pro-life if that means we have a list of priorities in life,” he said.
Republican state Rep. John Jacobs was among three House Republicans who voted against the bill, believing it was not strict enough. He called it “a weak, pathetic bill that still allows the killing of babies.”
“You are inviting God’s judgment on our state and our nation,” he said in remarks on the floor of Parliament on Friday. “Abortion is evil and it is barbaric.”
Democratic state Rep. Renee Pack, a US Army veteran, told the chamber she chose to have an abortion in 1990 while stationed at Fort Hood.
“And after everything I’ve been through in my life, it took me to state house to be called a murderer by my colleagues,” she said in her remarks to the House. “Sir, I am not a murderer, neither are my sisters. … We believe we have power over our bodies. This is who we are”.
Democratic state Rep. Sue Errington, former director of public policy at Planned Parenthood, said the issue of exemptions is “really not the heart” of the legislation.
“The crux of the matter is… who decides?” he said. “The heavy hand of the government will decide for them. Although every woman’s situation is different, [the bill] says one size fits all.”
He criticized the anti-abortion legislation as predicated on the idea that competent adults are unable to determine their own health decisions, condemning Indiana’s “cruel vision for women in our state.”
“You can trust us women to know what we can handle in our lives,” she said. “This suggestion that we don’t know what’s best for us degrades us as human beings and relegates women to second-class citizenship.”
To protesters outside the hall, he said, “I’ve been in your shoes before. I lived in the past days Roe. I don’t want to go back there. The only abortions you can ban are safe, legal abortions.”
Abortion care in Indiana has been in the international spotlight, highlighting the fragility of care throughout the Midwest and across the US.
An Indianapolis-area obstetrician-gynecologist who provided abortion care to a 10-year-old rape survivor is now filing a potential defamation lawsuit against Republican state Attorney General Todd Rokita, who was among the GOP figures involved in an abortion to undermine her bill and baselessly claim she didn’t follow the law.
That doctor, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, urged lawmakers to reject the bill.
Her employer, Indiana University Health, the state’s largest health system and the only academic medical center in the state, he said in a statement that the bill would negatively impact its ability to provide “safe and effective patient care” and could “deter physicians seeking to make a living and practice health care” in the state.
Vice President Kamala Harris also traveled to the state to meet with lawmakers last week.
Indiana currently allows abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, but restrictions include mandatory waiting periods, state counseling and ultrasounds, bans on certain health insurance coverage.
The targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws, also require providers to have so-called admitting privileges at local hospitals and other burdensome regulations on provider offices, such as requiring certain room sizes.
The state also prohibits telemedicine appointments to access medication abortion, the most common form of abortion care, using prescription drugs that can often be obtained in the comfort of the patient’s home, in many cases. The new bill, if it becomes law, would also ban medication abortions.
Wholesale 55 percent of all abortions in Indiana in 2020 were medication abortions.