By ARLEIGH RODGERS – Associated Press/Report for America
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana on Friday became the nation’s first state to approve abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade had overturned when the Republican governor quickly signed a near-total ban on the procedure shortly after it was approved by the legislature.
The ban, which comes into effect on September 15, includes a few exceptions. Abortions would be allowed in cases of rape and incest before 10 weeks after fertilization; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and when a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality. Victims of rape and incest would not have to sign a notarized affidavit of assault, as had previously been suggested.
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Under the law, abortions can only be performed in hospitals or outpatient centers owned by hospitals, meaning all abortion clinics would lose their license. A doctor who performs an illegal abortion or fails to file the required reports must also lose his medical license — wording that reinforces current Indiana law that says a doctor “may” lose his license.
“I am personally immensely proud of every Hoosier who has come forward to boldly share their views in a debate that is unlikely to end any time soon,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in the statement announcing that he had signed the measure. “For my part, as your governor, I will continue to listen.”
His approval came after the Senate approved the ban by a 28-19 vote and the House of Representatives by a 62-38 vote.
Indiana was among the first Republican-led state lawmakers to discuss tougher abortion laws after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the constitutional protections overturned the procedure. But it is the first state to pass a ban by both houses after the West Virginia legislature missed an opportunity to become that state on July 29.
“I’m glad to be done with this, one of the more challenging jobs we’ve ever done as a State General Assembly, at least certainly while I’m here,” Senate President Pro-Tem Rodric Bray told reporters after the vote. “I think this is a huge opportunity and we will build on that as we move forward from here.”
Sen. Sue Glick of LaGrange, who sponsored the bill, said she doesn’t think “all states will collapse in the same place,” but that most Indiana residents support aspects of the bill.
Some senators from both parties bemoaned the bill’s provisions and the impact it would have on the state, including low-income women and the health care system. Eight Republicans joined all 11 Democrats to vote against the law, though their reasons for thwarting the measure were mixed.
“We’re falling behind on democracy,” said Democratic Sen. Jean Breaux of Indianapolis, who wore a green ribbon on her lapel on Friday, symbolizing her support for abortion rights. “What other freedoms, what other freedoms are lying on the chopping block waiting to be taken away?”
Republican Sen. Mike Bohacek of Michigan Shores spoke about his 21-year-old daughter who has Down Syndrome. Bohacek voted against the law, saying there were no adequate protections for raped women with disabilities.
“If she were to lose her favorite stuffed animal, she would be heartbroken. Imagine having to carry a child,” he said before beginning to choke, then tossed his notes in his seat and exited the chamber.
However, Republican Senator Mike Young of Indianapolis said the bill’s enforcement provisions against doctors are not strict enough.
Such debates exposed Indiana residents’ own disagreements on the issue, evident in hours of testimony lawmakers had heard over the past two weeks. Local residents rarely, if ever, expressed support for the legislation in their testimonies, as pro-choice advocates said the law went too far, while anti-abortionists said it didn’t go far enough.
The debates came amid an evolving landscape of abortion policy across the country as Republicans face some party splits and Democrats see a possible upswing in the election year.
Republican Representative Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who sponsored the House bill, told reporters after the House vote that the legislation “makes Indiana one of the most hostile states in the nation.”
Outside the chambers, abortion rights activists often chanted over the legislature’s pronouncements and carried signs such as “deer deer your voice” and “build that wall” between church and state. Some House Democrats wore blazers over pink Bans Off Our Bodies T-shirts.
Indiana’s ban followed political firestorms surrounding a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate her pregnancy. The case drew attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child had come to Indiana because of Ohio’s ban on the “fetal heartbeat.”
Religion was a constant theme during legislative debates, both in statements from local residents and in legislators’ comments.
By opposing the House bill, Rep. Ann Vermilion condemned other Republicans who have called women “murderers” for having abortions.
“I think the promise of the Lord is mercy and kindness,” she said. “He would not step forward to judge these women.”
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover topics. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers
The AP’s full coverage of the fall of Roe v. Wade can be found at: https://apnews.com/hub/abortion
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