Despite forewarning, GOP lawmakers unprepared to roll out ‘pro-life’ legislation

Model legislation being discussed has no exceptions; lots of criminal penalties

By: - July 11, 2022 7:00 am

Indiana Republicans are preparing pro-life abortion legislation – but won’t talk about it. (Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – Dozens of Republicans who back pro-life issues refused to comment on a possible Indiana abortion ban, leaving a key Right to Life attorney’s proposal as the primary discussion point in the Indiana General Assembly.

That recommendation from the National Right to Life Committee would ban abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest; as well as criminalize providing information online for women seeking abortions.

Most lawmakers contacted by the Indiana Capital Chronicle didn’t return calls for requests to comment and those who did said they hadn’t reviewed the “model legislation” proposed by Jim Bopp. Only one took a stand on exceptions.

Gov. Eric Holcomb initially called for legislators to convene for a special session to consider a taxpayer refund on July 6 but leadership delayed the start date until July 25 to give themselves more time to craft anti-abortion legislation. Previously, the governor said he had no “red lines” when it came to abortion legislation. 

The ‘model legislation’ proposed by Bopp

A Terre Haute native and the chief lawyer for the National Right to Life Committee, Bopp has influenced anti-abortion legislation in Indiana for decades. He has successfully argued several cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, including Citizens United, which overturned campaign finance limitations. 

The model legislation doesn’t include any exemptions for rape or incest but does allow for a very narrow exception to protect the life of the mother. The proposal maintains that women should never be criminally prosecuted for pursuing an abortion. 

Pro-life attorney and activist Jim Bopp (Photo from The Bopp Law Firm)

Successfully performing an abortion would be a Level 2 Felony while an unsuccessful abortion would be a Level 3 Felony and penalties could apply to “anyone, except for the pregnant woman, who conspires to cause an illegal abortion or aids and abets an illegal abortion.”

Indiana has six levels of felonies with one being the highest.

Aiding an abortion “should” include sharing information about obtaining an abortion over the phone or internet, such as hosting a website or providing referrals or providing transportation for minors across state lines, the proposal said.

The recommendation notes that several Democratic prosecutors across the country have refused to enforce anti-abortion laws. Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said he wouldn’t prosecute such laws in Indianapolis, where three of the state’s seven clinics reside.

“If we rely only on criminal penalties, these counties will be sanctuaries for abortion-on-demand,” the proposal says. “To effectively enforce pro-life laws, a wide variety of enforcement measures will need to be adopted to supplement criminal enforcement, including licensing penalties, civil remedies and criminal enforcement by State officials.”

This would likely mean state Attorney General Todd Rokita enforcing penalties. 

Few words from elected officials

More than 100 Republicans signed a letter to Holcomb in March requesting a special session in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. A draft of the opinion leaked in May but Republicans didn’t have any legislation drafted in preparation for this moment. 

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour (Photo from the Indiana House Republicans)

Only Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, would share specifics he sought in the legislation, saying he wanted to preserve three exceptions: rape, incest and life of the mother.

“We have to see what the language says but I think we would have to help women in that situation,” Lucas said. 

He said he would like to maintain easy access to birth control and minimize adoption hurdles.

“I’d love to see Indiana be the easiest state to adopt a child,” Lucas said. “It’s hard to comment on a bill we haven’t seen yet.”

The bill will be introduced in the Senate, but even senators didn’t say where they stood on abortion legislation.

Sen. Mike Gaskill, R-Pendleton, said he wouldn’t be the author of the bill and wouldn’t comment until he saw the bill.

“I’m looking to see what they propose and will consider when we get there,” Gaskill said. “I’m going to wait and see.”

Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, identified as pro-life but said she didn’t have much to share until she knew where her constituents stood – including physicians. 

“When it comes to the actual legislation, I’ll do a lot of research and talk to people in my community,” Rogers said. “Until I’ve heard all of those stories, I can’t comment.”


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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.