Anti-abortion and abortion rights activists line up on the Indiana Statehouse steps on July 25. (Whitney Downard/ Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Thousands of Hoosiers crammed into the Statehouse on Monday, while hundreds more took over sidewalks and streets outside with loud chants and even a band – most in support of abortion access.
Meanwhile, yards away Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to legislators in support of reproductive rights. And senators listened to four hours of testimony on the bill.
Last week, Senate Republicans unveiled their legislation that would ban all elective abortions from the moment the embryo implants in a uterus, with exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities and life of the mother.
Both the House and Senate convened to officially begin the special legislative session addressing both the state’s surplus and a new abortion law,
After the House adjourned, Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said criminal penalties as well as exceptions for rape and incest would continue to part of the conversation within his caucus but didn’t have further comment on the Senate’s bill.
“Truthfully, I’m waiting to see what they send us,” he said. “I have looked at the Senate Bill but I hate to make too many comments until I know what we’re actually going to see.”
In the past, the Republican supermajority rebuked Democratic efforts to repeal Indiana’s diaper tax, which the House suggested in HB 1001. Huston said unlike past years, the state is in a different financial position.
“This is about protecting women; this is about supporting babies,” Huston said. “We just felt like these were common sense proposals to support women and children.”
Inside the halls a few dozen anti-abortion protesters, many of whom decry the bill for not including criminal penalties, verbally clashed with Hoosiers supporting abortion rights. Hoisting graphic illustrations, they sang hymns while abortion rights proponents chanted, “My body, my choice.”
State officials said at its peak more than 1,500 visitors were inside the Statehouse.
Advocates in favor of abortion access vastly outnumbered the anti-abortion group, who are scheduled to rally on Tuesday.
At the rally inside — organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Planned Parenthood and Women4Change — speakers led hundreds of Hoosiers in chants as dozens more lined up to speak in a Senate hearing and thousands of others rallied outside.
Opposing the bill
Speakers observed that wealthy Hoosiers will still be able to access the healthcare procedure while Black and Latino Hoosiers, impoverished Hoosiers and gender non-conforming Hoosiers will bear the brunt of the ban.
“They will suffer the most under an abortion ban but all Hoosiers will benefit from reproductive justice,” Amy Caldwell, an OBGYN with IU Health, said. “I will keep doing my job and I will keep taking care of Hoosiers to the best of my ability. But this (energy) needs to go beyond the next election… we need to keep showing up.”
At one point protesters spilled out from the Statehouse steps and blocked Capitol Avenue, marching around the building. Speakers blasted music and sermons throughout the day. Shouts from abortion rights protesters, many lined up to testify in opposition of the Senate’s proposal to limit abortion access, could be heard inside the chamber.
Kerry Hyatt Bennett, chief counsel of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said the bill gave survivors less rights and support to leave their abusers. She noted Indiana’s high rates of maternal mortality, infant mortality and domestic violence.
Bennett added that many mothers in domestic violence situations face health complications, including premature delivery and vaginal bleeding. Some abusers use reproductive access as leverage over women.
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