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Indiana House to vote on abortion ban with exceptions

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Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Indiana lawmakers will vote today on a bill that would ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. If the measure passes without major changes, it will head to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's desk for his signature, and Indiana would become one of the first states in the nation to pass new abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

This final vote comes after contentious debate in both houses of the state legislature, divisive votes on amendments, and a visit from Vice President Kamala Harris, who joined thousands of protesters at the state capitol last week in opposition to the bill.

“We stand with the women of Indiana," Harris said in remarks delivered at Indianapolis International Airport after she landed. "We trust the women of Indiana to make decisions about their own lives without requiring their government to tell them what to do with their bodies."

SB1 would ban all abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or medical emergencies where the life of the mother is at risk. The exceptions for rape and incest would only apply within the first 12 weeks for girls ages 15 or younger and the first eight weeks for pregnant girls and women ages 16 and older.

The bill narrowly passed in the state Senate last weekend 26-20, with 10 Republicans and all Democrats voting against. Moderate Republicans objected that the bill goes too far by banning abortion after the moment of conception, while some pro-life state senators said the bill was too weak because it held exemptions for rape and incest.

A state House amendment to remove those exceptions failed Thursday 39-61, with a minority of Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition to it.

Republican Rep. Karen Engleman sponsored the amendment, arguing that the right to life should extend to children conceived by rape or incest.

“The intentional ending of human life has no place in medical practice,” Engleman said, according to the Associated Press.

Democratic lawmakers opposed to the amendment brought up the highly controversial case of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who traveled to Indiana from neighboring Ohio to obtain an abortion. They questioned whether that girl's abortion would have been prohibited under her amendment. Engleman, who said she had a child as an unmarried teenager, responded that a doctor would be able to determine whether the pregnancy threatened the life of a young girl.

Indiana Right to Life, a pro-life group that engaged with lawmakers over new abortion restrictions, said in a statement that the group could not fully endorse the bill after the amendment failed.

Indiana Right to Life believes substantive changes to SB1 in the House provide renewed hope that over 95% of Indiana’s 8,414 abortions will end if it becomes law. House amendments will make abortion clinics a thing of the past in Indiana, requiring that abortions for limited circumstances be done in hospitals, or hospital-owned surgical centers. The House also tightened language for the life of the mother exception, limited abortions to ten weeks in circumstances of rape or incest, and limited abortions for lethal fetal anomalies to 20 weeks.

While we are disappointed that an amendment to limit abortions to only the life of the mother fell short in a roll call vote, we applaud those House members supporting the amendment for doing all they could to limit SB1’s exceptions. We will continue to work to build consensus going forward that all lives are to be valued, regardless of the means of one’s conception.

While we cannot fully endorse the amended SB1 due to its rape, incest, and lethal fetal anomaly exceptions, we acknowledge the path forward is either the potential to end the vast majority of abortions in Indiana, beginning with the closure of Indiana abortion clinics in mid-September, or allowing all abortions to continue under current law, as women from Ohio, Kentucky, and other states travel to Indiana for abortions. We urge every legislator to prayerfully consider how their vote will impact the path Indiana now chooses.

Thousands of people descended on the Indiana Statehouse last week to voice their opposition to the abortion restrictions. Protesters inside and outside the chamber shouted "shame" as votes were tallied on amendments to the bill, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The Indiana Medical Association issued a statement last Friday opposing the bill, expressing concerns that criminal penalties for abortionists "could have a catastrophic, generational effect on our ability to adequately address the health care needs of Hoosiers and our already unhealthy state."

“Hoosier patients and their physicians deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We urge lawmakers to preserve and support the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship by removing the threat of criminal penalties and including an exception for the health of the mother in any state law abortion ban,” the group said.

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