Republican Indiana lawmakers propose near-total abortion ban

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Women’s access to abortion largely could be eliminated in Indiana as soon as mid-August under legislation unveiled Wednesday by Republican Senate leaders.

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by state Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, would prohibit all abortions in the state, except in the case of pregnancies caused by rape or incest, or if an abortion is needed to prevent substantial permanent impairment to the life of a pregnant woman.

“We in the pro-life movement have long believed in exceptions to abortion restrictions for the life of the mother, and that is reflected in our legislation,” Glick said.

“In addition, we recognize there are heartbreaking cases where, because of violence committed against women and young girls, providing some additional exceptions is necessary. That’s why the legislation we are introducing provides exceptions for cases of rape and incest, which I believe a majority of Hoosiers support,” she added.

The abortion legislation, set to be officially filed when the Republican-controlled General Assembly convenes Monday in special session, leaves doctors to determine whether a woman’s life is endangered absent an abortion.

Likewise, the only documentation required from a pregnant woman seeking an abortion due to rape or incest is a confidential affidavit, sworn under penalties of perjury, attesting to the rape or incest.

The measure specifically defines pregnancies subject to the abortion ban as beginning when a living fetus is implanted in a woman’s uterus, rather than at the moment of fertilization.

As such, the proposal does not threaten the availability of the so-called “morning after” pill or types of contraception that prevent uterine implantation or fertilization; impede the removal of ectopic pregnancies; or limit in vitro fertilization services.

It also does not give Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita the power to usurp local prosecutors when it comes to filing charges for an alleged illegal abortion, which remains a level 5 felony, nor does it limit the ability of Hoosier women to obtain abortions in other states.

At the same time, abortion-inducing medication would remain unavailable in Indiana through telemedicine or mail-order pharmacies, and the legislation would require surgical abortions be performed only at a hospital or ambulatory surgical center owned by a hospital, instead of at abortion clinics, such as the Planned Parenthood facility in Merrillville.

Senate President Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, said that crafting a state abortion policy following last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling repealing the nationwide right to abortion established by the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision has been “the most difficult, polarizing issue we’ve faced in a generation.”

“I understand the passion that exists on both sides. Nevertheless, it is our job in the Indiana General Assembly to chart a course for Indiana and determine what our course is on this extremely difficult issue,” Bray said.

To that end, Bray said there will be no shortcuts to the normal legislative process. He said after the abortion legislation is filed Monday, the Senate Rules Committee, which he leads, will hear public testimony on the measure from 1 to 5 p.m. EST at the Statehouse.

Public testimony at the Rules Committee will continue from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday, after which the committee will consider any proposed amendments and decide whether to advance the proposal to the full Senate.

Three Northwest Indiana lawmakers sit on the Rules Committee: State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso; state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary; and state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.

The full Senate is set to evaluate and consider changes to the legislation July 28, and the Senate is expected to debate the plan and ultimately vote July 29 on whether to send the abortion proposal to the House.

The House then will follow a similar process beginning Aug. 1. The proposal must pass both chambers with identical language to go to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to be signed into law or vetoed.

Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said “it’s a shame” Republicans want to drastically limit abortion access, and Taylor vowed the 11 Democrats in the 50-member Senate will “be fighting with everything we’ve got for women and Hoosiers across the state.”

“An abortion ban will result in women dying. Period. When pregnant women cannot access vital components of health care, they are at greater risk of having their pregnancy end in a fatality — especially if they already have existing health conditions or illnesses,” Taylor said.

LaKimba DeSadier, state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Indiana, said the limited exceptions to the proposed abortion ban leave providers risking investigations, and even criminalization, making them exceptions in name only.

“Now is the time for Indiana lawmakers to stand up for what the majority of Hoosiers and Americans want — the right to decide if and when to start a family,” DeSadier said. “It’s time the Indiana state legislature started listening — our futures and our lives are literally on the line. We will do everything we can to stop these attacks on reproductive freedom.”

In addition to the abortion ban, Bray said the Senate next week will consider two other legislative proposals.

Senate Bill 2 would allocate $45 million to support various programs focused on maternal and infant health, pregnancy prevention and adoption operated by the Indiana Department of Child Services, Family and Social Services Administration, Department of Health and Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 3 would, in lieu of the governor’s plan to send a $225 taxpayer rebate check to eligible Hoosiers, take a penny off the state’s record-high gasoline tax, suspend the collection of Indiana’s 7% sales tax on residential utility bills through the end of the year, set aside $215 million for future state construction projects and deposit $400 million in Indiana’s pension stabilization fund.

Bray said Senate Republicans are wary of simply sending checks to citizens, which he said could lead to more inflation. Instead, Bray said, this package can “provide financial relief to all Hoosiers in multiple ways while continuing to pay down our outstanding debt.”

House Republicans are not yet on board. Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said his caucus next week will consider adopting House Bill 1001 that backs the governor’s plan for $225 direct payments to Hoosiers and also increases spending on state services for mothers and babies by $58 million, instead of $45 million.

“We share the Senate’s goal in increasing protections for Indiana’s unborn while also stepping up our investment in wraparound services to better support new and expectant moms, and babies,” Huston said.

“Our caucus will take time to review and consider the details of the Senate bill, and continue to listen to thoughts and input from constituents across the state. We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues and the governor in the days and weeks ahead, and I’m confident we’ll find a thoughtful way forward that shows compassion for both mothers and babies,” he added.

Holcomb spokeswoman Erin Murphy similarly said the governor plans to “continue with his discussions with legislative leadership and members about the multiple issues before Hoosiers today, including the best way to return hard-earned tax dollars to Hoosiers in a timely, meaningful way.”

By law, the General Assembly must adjourn its special session no later than Aug. 15.

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