TOP STORIES Indiana becomes first state to ban abortion since Rowe

Indiana becomes first state to ban abortion since Rowe

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Abortion rights protesters fill the hallways of the Indiana State Building and cheering in front of the legislative chambers on Friday, August 5, 2022, as lawmakers vote for a near-total abortion ban in Indianapolis.

Arly Rogers/AP


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Arly Rogers/AP


Abortion rights protesters fill the hallways of the Indiana State Building and cheering in front of the legislative chambers on Friday, August 5, 2022, as lawmakers vote for a near-total abortion ban in Indianapolis.

Arly Rogers/AP

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 a Republican governor quickly signed a near-total ban on the procedure shortly after lawmakers approved it.

The ban, which takes effect September 15, includes some exceptions. Abortion will be allowed in cases of rape and incest up to 10 weeks after fertilization; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly. Victims of rape and incest will not be required to sign sworn affidavits confirming assault, as was once proposed.

Under the bill, abortions can only be performed in hospitals or outpatient centers owned by hospitals, meaning that all abortion clinics will lose their license. A doctor who performs an illegal abortion or fails to file required reports must also have their medical license revoked, language that toughens current Indiana law that says a doctor “could” lose their license.

“I am personally most proud of every Hoosier who boldly shared their views in a debate that is unlikely to end anytime soon,” Governor Eric Holcomb said as he announced the measure was signed into law. “For my part, as your governor, I will continue to keep my eyes open.”

His approval came after the Senate approved the ban 28–19 and the House of Representatives advanced it 62–38.

Indiana was one of the first Republican-led state legislatures to debate tougher abortion laws following a June Supreme Court ruling that overturned the procedure’s constitutional protections. But it is the first state to pass a bicameral ban since West Virginia lawmakers squandered the chance to become that state on July 29.

“Glad to wrap this up, one of the hardest things we’ve ever done as a state general assembly, at least definitely while I’ve been here,” Pro-Tem Senate President Rodrik Bray told reporters after the vote. “I think this is a huge opportunity and we will build on it as we move forward.”

Senator Sue Glick of LaGrange, who sponsored the bill, said she doesn’t think “all the states will converge in one place,” but that most Indiana residents support some aspects of the bill.

Some senators from both parties have lamented the provisions of the bill and its impact on the state, including low-income women and the healthcare system. Eight Republicans joined all 11 Democrats in voting against the bill, although their reasons for blocking the measure were mixed.

“We’re retreating from democracy,” said Democratic Senator Jean Bro of Indianapolis, who wore a green ribbon on her lapel on Friday in support of abortion rights. “What other freedoms, what other freedoms lie on the block, waiting to be taken away?”

Republican Senator Mike Bohachek of Michiana Shores spoke about his 21-year-old daughter who has Down Syndrome. Bohachek voted against the bill, saying it did not adequately protect disabled women who had been raped.

“If she lost her favorite soft toy, she would be inconsolable. Imagine her forcing her to carry the baby to term,” he said before he began to choke, then tossed his notes on the seat and left the room.

However, Republican Senator Mike Young of Indianapolis said the physician enforcement provisions of the bill were not strong enough.

Such debates have demonstrated Indiana’s own divisions on the issue, demonstrated in hours of legislators’ testimony heard over the past two weeks. Residents rarely, if ever, expressed support for the law in their testimony, as abortion rights supporters said the bill went too far, while anti-abortion activists said it wasn’t enough.

The debate took place amid the changing landscape of abortion policy across the country, as Republicans face some partisan divisions and Democrats see a possible upswing in an election year.

Republican Rep. Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who sponsored the House bill, told reporters after the House vote that the bill “makes Indiana one of the pro-life states in the country.”

Outside the chambers, abortion rights activists often chanted legislators’ lines, carrying signs such as “Row, caviar, your vote” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some Democrats in the House of Representatives have worn blazers over pink T-shirts that read “Bans Off Our Body”.

Indiana’s ban follows a political storm surrounding 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 baby had come to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heart rate” ban.

Religion has been a recurring theme during legislative debates, both in residents’ testimony and legislators’ comments.

Opposing the House bill, Rep. Ann Vermilion condemned fellow Republicans who called women “murderers” for having abortions.

“I think the Lord’s promise is about grace and goodness,” she said. “He won’t jump to denounce these women.”

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