Indiana senators advance abortion ban bill to full Senate
The full Senate will weigh the bill after GOP lawmakers approved several amendments to the proposal.
Sen. Rodric Bray answers questions from reporters on May 22, 2022 in Indianapolis. (Monroe Bush for the Indiana Capital Chronicle)
A Republican-backed bill that seeks to ban virtually all abortions in Indiana advanced to the full Senate Tuesday after adding more restrictions to the exceptions allowing rape and incest victims to access abortions.
The move came after hours of public testimony in widespread opposition to the proposal.
Senate Bill 1 now heads to the full Senate, where it could be further amended on Thursday. A vote to decide whether to send the bill to the House is expected Friday. Several senators on Tuesday expressed concerns about the language, indicating they likely won’t vote for it on final passage.
“This is a bill, as we’ve seen, that no one can agree on all the terms of … no one agrees that it’s a perfect bill,” bill author Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, said Tuesday. “However, this is the first step in a long process … Am I happy with the bill? Not exactly. Nor was I happy when it was drafted. This is a very difficult process, but it is a very difficult issue.”
Democrat amendments prove unsuccessful
The amended bill establishes a Level 5 felony for doctors who perform any illegal abortion, meaning any abortion that falls outside the narrow scope of exceptions allowed in the proposal. The crime carries a prison term of between one and six years.
Qualifications for those exceptions also became stricter Tuesday after lawmakers adopted an amendment limiting abortions performed in cases of rape or incest to 12 weeks for those under the age of 16. The limit drops to eight weeks for anyone aged 16 or older.
Glick said the amendment stemmed from objections that the exception for rape and incest is too vague. Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said the time restrictions could be changed again.
“I think eight weeks is about to the heartbeat level. I think some people had concerns about going out too far, because as the baby matures, that’s something that people had problems with,” Bray said. “But with younger kids, eight weeks didn’t seem appropriate. It needed to be a little bit longer.
Republican Sen. Mark Messmer of Jasper was the only GOP lawmaker to join Democrats in voting against the amendment.
A separate approved amendment, which Glick said was requested by the Senate Republican caucus, would require the affidavit — that must be signed by a person seeking an abortion after rape or incest — be placed in a patient’s permanent health record. All Democrats on the committee, plus Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, voted “no” on the change.
“I really think you have a serious question mark about unfounded allegations,” Glick said. “There are proof issues if you’re bringing a criminal case … we want to make sure that everyone involved knows the significance.”
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A third amendment adopted by the committee adds reporting requirements to terminations of pregnancy in cases when a fetus is not capable of supporting life. Democrats and Messmer voted against that amendment, too.
GOP lawmakers in the Senate rules committee additionally turned down two Democratic amendments to the bill.
Democratic Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, unsuccessfully lobbied for her proposal that would have repealed Indiana’s existing ban on tele-health for abortion care.
Republicans rejected a different amendment from Sen. Greg Taylor of Indianapolis, which would have extended life insurance, child support and dependent tax deductions to include fetuses.
“The last thing that I wanted to have happen was for this bill to come out of this committee and go to the floor of the Senate … because now, you’ve got about 38 other members who get to chime in. You think that’s going to help this bill?” Taylor said. “The best thing for this bill to do is to be gone. You’re treading on very sensitive waters, and I hope you don’t drown”
Bray refused Tuesday to hear any other amendments proposed by Democrats, of which there were roughly a dozen.
“Our goal here is to get something through the committee that we can get onto the floor, and have a debate, and continue to have this idea moving,” Bray said, speaking about his decision not to call additional amendments. “Keep in mind, this is still early in the process.”
More public testimony, still no support for bill
The Senate committee heard an additional three-and-a-half hours of public testimony Tuesday morning, adding to the four hours of public comment allowed on Monday. Over the two days, 61 people testified before the committee. Not a single person who spoke supported the bill in its current form.
Those in support of abortion rights said the bill lacks specifics and takes away women’s fundamental right to decide what’s best for their bodies.
LaKimba DeSadier, the state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates of Indiana, called the bill “a cruel, barbaric, and outright abortion ban.”
She said doctors in Indiana only want to help provide women with basic and life-saving care. But even with the limited exceptions outlined in the bill, DeSadier cautioned that medical professionals unfairly risk losing their licenses, and even face jail time.
“The government should not be interfering into our medical decisions,” DeSadier said. “Every person in Indiana should be able to make their own decisions with their health and their bodies, and that’s including abortions.”
But anti-abortion proponents also remained displeased, maintaining that the bill still leaves open too many options for abortion.
Speaking on behalf of Indiana Right to Life, Courtney Millbank called the Senate bill “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” She argued the bill severely lacks criminal penalties for abortion providers who break the law.
She said the anti-abortion group wants to see stripped the exception to allow abortions that preserve the health of the mother. Exceptions for instances of rape and incest should require reporting to law enforcement, she continued.
“(This bill) is certain to result in abortion-on-demand in Indiana,” said Millbank, an attorney for Indiana lawyer Jim Bopp, who authored the state’s model legislation in advance of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
The General Assembly reconvened for a special legislative session Monday to weigh the abortion ban, as well as financial supports for women, babies and families. Lawmakers will also debate inflation relief for Hoosiers.
Bray said more amendments to the abortion-restricting bill are expected to be proposed by state senators this week, including some that could address issues raised during Tuesday’s testimony.
“We’re recognizing that this is pretty hard work,” he said. “And we’re working in earnest to try and find a path forward, and listening to everybody that’s out there.”
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