By ARLEIGH RODGERS – Associated Press/Report for America
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Friday became the first state in the nation to approve abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as the Republican governor quickly signed a nearly complete ban on the procedure shortly after lawmakers approved it.
The ban, which comes into effect on September 15, includes some exceptions. Abortions would be allowed in cases of rape and incest, before 10 weeks after conception; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality. Victims of rape and incest are not required to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to an assault, as previously proposed in the Senate.
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By law, abortions can only be performed in hospitals or outpatient clinics 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 tightens current Indiana law that says a doctor “may” lose his license.
“I am personally most proud of every Hoosier who came forward to boldly share their views in a debate that is unlikely to end anytime soon,” Governor Eric Holcomb said in the statement announcing he had signed the measure. “For my part as your governor I will keep an open ear.”
His approval came after the Indiana Senate passed Prohibition 28-19 and members of the House proposed it 62-38.
Indiana was one of the first Republican-led state legislators to debate tougher abortion laws following the June Supreme Court ruling that removed constitutional protections for the procedure. But it is the first state to pass a ban by both houses after West Virginia lawmakers skipped the chance to be that state on July 29.
“I’m glad to be done with this, one of the more challenging things we’ve ever done as a State General Assembly, at least 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 fall in the same place,” but that most Indiana residents support aspects of the bill.
Some senators in both parties deplored 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 in voting against the bill, though their reasons for thwarting the measure were mixed.
“We’re going back to democracy,” Democratic Senator Jean Breaux of Indianapolis, who wore a green ribbon on Friday as a sign of support for abortion rights, said on her lapel. “What other freedoms, what other freedoms are on the chopping block, waiting to be taken away?”
Republican Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores spoke about his 21-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome. Bohacek voted against the bill because it does not provide adequate protection for women with disabilities who are raped.
“If she lost her favorite stuffed animal, she would be inconsolable. Imagine letting her carry a child,” he said before choking, throwing his notes on his chair and leaving the room.
However, Republican Senator Mike Young of Indianapolis said the bill’s enforcement provisions against physicians are not strict enough.
Such debates showed Indiana residents’ own divisions on the issue, as evidenced by hours-long testimony that lawmakers have heard over the past two weeks. Residents on all sides of the issue rarely, if ever, supported the legislation, as abortion rights advocates said the bill went too far, while anti-abortion activists said it didn’t go far enough.
The debates came amid an evolving landscape of abortion politics across the country as Republicans deal with a number of party divisions and Democrats see a potential boost 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 pro-life states in the nation.”
Outside the rooms, abortion rights activists often chanted comments from lawmakers, carrying signs like “Roe roe roe your vote” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some House Democrats wore blazers over pink “Bans Off Our Bodies” T-shirts.
Indiana’s proposed ban also came after political storms over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate her pregnancy. The case gained attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child was coming to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” ban.
Religion was a persistent theme during the special session, both in the testimonies of residents and in the comments of lawmakers.
In arguing against the House law, Rep. Ann Vermilion fellow Republicans who called women “murderers” for having an abortion.
“I think the Lord’s promise is for mercy and kindness,” she said. “He wouldn’t jump to judge these women.”
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national, not-for-profit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on classified issues. Follow her on Twitter on https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers
Find AP’s full coverage of Roe v. Wade’s overthrow at: https://apnews.com/hub/abortion
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