INDIANAPOLIS (TUSEN) — The Indiana House passed a bill Friday that would ban nearly all abortions in the state, sending the legislation back to the state Senate to discuss House changes.
House members advanced the near-total abortion ban 62-38, with limited exceptions, including in cases of rape and incest, and to protect the mother’s life and physical health.
The measure now goes to the Senate. If approved as it is, Indiana lawmakers will be the first in the nation to pass new legislation restricting access to abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that lifted protected status as a constitutional right. The measure would then go to Governor Eric Holcomb, who did not specify whether he would sign it.
Republican Representative Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who sponsored the bill, said the legislation “reflects an understanding that this is one of the most difficult and controversial issues of our lives.”
Outside the House room Friday, abortion rights activists chanted comments from lawmakers, carrying signs like “Roe ree 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 version of the ban added exceptions to protect the mother’s health and life after frequent requests from doctors and others testifying before a Senate committee last week. It also allows abortions if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.
The bill also removes Senate-approved age-based timeframes for abortions in rape or incest cases — up to 12 weeks for those under 16 and eight weeks for those 16 and older. It instead creates a blanket ban on abortions after 10 weeks after conception in cases of rape and incest. Victims would not be required to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to an assault.
Friday’s vote came about a week after the Republican-controlled Senate narrowly passed the ban with similar measures. State senators could consider the House-approved abortion ban Friday afternoon, when further changes are possible.
House and Senate lawmakers listened to hours of testimony over the past two weeks as residents on all sides of the issue rarely, if ever, supported the legislation. Opposition from abortion rights advocates said the bill goes too far, while anti-abortion activists said it doesn’t go far enough.
Indiana was one of the first Republican-led state legislators to debate tougher abortion laws after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The proposed ban also came after the political storm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate her pregnancy. The case got a lot of attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child was coming to Indiana because of the Ohio “fetal heartbeat” ban.
Democratic Representative Maureen Bauer spoke in tears of the people in her South Bend district who oppose the bill — the husbands who support their wives, the fathers who support their daughters — as well as the women “who demand that we be seen as equals.”
Bauer’s comments were followed by loud cheers from protesters in the hallway and soon suppressed applause from fellow Democrats.
“You might not have thought these women would show up,” Bauer said. “Maybe you thought we weren’t paying attention.”
West Virginia lawmakers on July 29 passed up the opportunity to be the first state to pass a unified ban after the House of Representatives refused to pass Senate amendments that abolished criminal penalties for doctors who perform illegal abortions. Delegates instead asked for a conference committee to consider the details between the bills.
The debates take place amid an evolving landscape of abortion politics across the country, as Republicans face party divisions and Democrats see a potential boost in the election year.
The vote in the Indiana House further illustrated a deeply divided chamber, which formerly rejected an amendment that would have removed exceptions for rape and incest. A majority of GOP members wanted their removal.
The House vote and lawmakers’ discussions showed similar divisions to the Senate over the same exceptions, which remained in the Senate bill when an attempt among senators failed last week.
Arleigh Rodgers is a member of the Corps for the The US Express News/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national, not-for-profit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on classified issues. Follow her on Twitter on https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers
Find TUSEN’s full coverage of Roe v. Wade’s overthrow at: https://apnews.com/hub/abortion