Indiana House GOP Facing Debate Over Abortion Ban Exemptions

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republicans who dominate the Indiana legislature remain divided on how tight they should make a proposed ban on nearly all abortions, as debate on the bill shifted to the state house on Monday after the The Senate’s tight weekend approval of the proposal.

Significant disagreement has included whether exceptions to the ban should be allowed allowed for rape and incest victimswhile a prominent House conservative said he believed the Senate-approved version wouldn’t ban as many abortions as claimed by the sponsor.

A House committee is scheduled to hear public testimony on Tuesday the proposal and possibly debate changes to it prior to the vote on submitting the bill to the full House.

A lot anti-abortion activists oppose the version approved Saturday by a 26-20 vote in the Republican-dominated Senate, arguing that it is too lax and objects to the rape and incest exceptions included in the bill that would generally ban abortions from the moment that implants a fertilized egg in a uterus.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston and GOP Representative Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who will sponsor the bill in the House, both said Monday they would prefer to allow those exceptions.

McNamara said the law “must be conscientious about those people who have experienced trauma in rape and incest situations.”

Indiana has one of the first Republican legislators considering tougher abortion laws not been on the books since the US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Lawmakers in West Virginia Friday passed up the opportunity to pass an abortion ban that included exceptions for rape and incest victims, as well as medical emergencies. That move delayed further action until later in August.

Indiana’s Republican Representative Tim Wesco of Osceola said he and other social conservatives would push for the rape and incest exceptions to be removed from the bill, along with a tighter definition of what allows abortions. Wesco said he didn’t know if that push would be successful, but disagreed with supporters of the bill who claim it would ban almost all abortions in the state.

“I think the bill passed by the Senate is ineffective and has some significant issues that may even reverse what we have in the current legislation,” Wesco said.

Indiana’s proposal followed a political storm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate a pregnancy. The case got attention when a doctor from Indianapolis said the child had to come to Indiana because a newly-imposed law in Ohio prohibits abortions if heart activity can be detected in an embryo or fetus, possibly as early as six weeks’ gestation.

Such abortions would still be allowed under the Indiana proposal, although the Senate-approved version limits how long rape and incest victims must undergo an abortion. Those 16 or older could have an abortion up to eight weeks of pregnancy to sign a notarized affidavit confirming the attack, while those under 16 would have to 12 weeks.

The bill also includes provisions that would allow doctors to face criminal charges and up to six years in prison for performing an illegal abortion. That’s the same potential penalty for performing abortions under the current 20-week ban in Indiana.

Representatives from several medical groups have expressed concern about doctors who may be questioned and prosecuted for their medical decisions.

The Indiana Hospital Association said in a statement that it was concerned about a new state abortion law “which creates an atmosphere that will be perceived as hostile to doctors.”

“We are warning our officials to send signals that could further exacerbate our health care workforce shortage and threaten access to care,” said hospital association president Brian Tabor. “We urge lawmakers to protect all medical professionals from liability and other consequences when they act in good faith to comply with state laws while providing life-saving care to Hoosier mothers and babies.”

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