INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana on Friday became the first state in the nation to approve abortion restrictions after 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.
The ban, which takes effect on September 15, includes some exceptions. Abortions will be permitted in cases of rape and incest up to 10 weeks after conception; protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if the fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality. Rape and incest victims will not have to sign a notarized statement attesting to the assault, as previously proposed.
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 up current Indiana law that says a doctor “may” lose his license.
“I am personally very proud of every Hoosier who has courageously shared their views in a debate that is unlikely to stop anytime soon,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a statement announcing that he had signed the measure into law. “For my part As your governor, I will continue to keep my ear open.”
His approval came after the Senate approved the ban 28-19 and the House advanced it 62-38.
Indiana was one of the first Republican-led state legislatures to discuss toughening abortion laws after a Supreme Court ruling in June struck down constitutional protections for the procedure. But it is the first state to pass the ban through both chambers since West Virginia lawmakers missed a chance to become a state on July 29.
“Happy to have completed this, one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done as a state General Assembly, at least while I’ve been here,” Senate President Rodrick Bray told reporters after the vote. “I think it’s a huge opportunity and we’ll build on it as we move forward.”
Sen. Sue Glick of LaGrange, who sponsored the bill, said she doesn’t think “every state is going to fall into one place,” but that a majority of Indiana residents support some aspects of the bill.
Some senators from 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, along with all 11 Democrats, voted against the bill, though their reasons for thwarting the measure were mixed.
“We are retreating from democracy,” said Sen. Jean Breaux, Democrat of Indianapolis, who wore a green ribbon on her lapel Friday to signify her support for abortion rights. “What other liberties, what other liberties are on the coattails, waiting to be taken away?”
Republican Sen. Mike Bohacek of Michigan Shores talked about his 21-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome. Bahacek voted against the bill, saying it does not provide adequate protection for women with disabilities who are victims of rape.
“If she lost her favorite stuffed animal, she would be inconsolable. Imagine her having to carry the baby all the way,” he said before he began to gasp, then dropped the notes on the seat and left the room.
Republican Sen. Mike Young of Indianapolis, however, said the bill’s enforcement provisions against doctors are not strict enough.
The debate showed how divided Indiana residents are on the issue, reflected in hours of testimony heard by lawmakers over the past two weeks. Residents rarely, if ever, expressed support for the legislation in their testimony, as abortion rights advocates said the bill went too far and anti-abortion activists said it did not go far enough.
The debate comes amid a shift in abortion policy across the country, with Republicans facing some divisions within the party and Democrats eyeing a possible boost in an 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 most livable states in the country.”
Outside the chambers, abortion rights activists often chanted the lawmakers’ remarks, holding signs like “Ro Ro Ro Your Voice” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some House Democrats wore blazers over pink T-shirts that read “Bans Off Our Bodies.”
Indiana’s ban follows a political firestorm surrounding a 10-year-old rape victim who came to the state from nearby Ohio to terminate her pregnancy. The case gained attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the baby came to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” ban.
Religion was a constant theme during the legislative debate, both in testimony from residents and comments from lawmakers.
In speaking out against the House bill, Rep. Ann Vermillion condemned fellow Republicans who called women “killers” for abortion.
“I think the Lord’s promise is grace and kindness,” she said. “He would not be quick to condemn these women.”
Arlie Rogers is a staff member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Reporting for America is a nonprofit national outreach program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported issues. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers
See AP’s complete coverage of the overturning of Roe v. Wade at: https://apnews.com/hub/abortion
Indiana becomes first state to approve abortion ban since Roe :: WRAL.com
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