INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana House passed a bill Friday that would ban almost all abortions in the state, returning the legislation to the state Senate to discuss House changes.
House members advanced the near-total abortion ban 62-38, with limited exceptions, including in cases of rape and incest, and to protect the mother’s life and physical health.
The measure now goes to the Senate. If passed as it is, Indiana legislators will become the first in the nation to pass new legislation restricting access to abortions since the June Supreme Court ruling removing protected status as a constitutional right. The measure would then go to Governor Eric Holcomb, who did not indicate whether he would sign it.
Republican Representative Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who sponsored the bill, said the legislation “reflects an understanding that this is one of the most difficult and controversial issues of our lives.”
Outside the House room Friday, abortion rights activists chanted comments from lawmakers, carrying signs like “Roe ree roe your vote” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some House Democrats wore blazers over pink “Bans Off Our Bodies” T-shirts.
The home version of the ban added exceptions to protect the health and life of the mother after frequent requests from doctors and others who testified before a Senate committee last week. It also allows abortions if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.
The bill also removes the Senate-approved age-based terms for abortions in rape or incest cases — up to 12 weeks for persons under 16 and eight weeks for persons aged 16 and over. It instead creates a blanket ban on abortions after 10 weeks after conception in cases of rape and incest. Victims should not have to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to an attack.
Friday’s mood came about a week after the Republican-controlled Senate narrowly passed the ban with similar measures. State senators could consider the House-approved abortion ban Friday afternoon, when further changes are possible.
House and Senate lawmakers listened to hours of testimony over the past two weeks when: residents on all sides of the issue rarely, if ever, supported the legislation. Opposition from abortion rights advocates said the bill goes too far, while anti-abortion activists said it doesn’t go far enough.
Indiana was one of the first Republican-led state legislators to debate tougher abortion laws after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The proposed ban also came after the political storm passed a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate her pregnancy. The case received wide attention when a doctor in Indianapolis said the kid was coming to Indiana because of… Ohio’s “Fetal Heartbeat” Ban.
Democratic Representative Maureen Bauer spoke in tears of the people in her South Bend district who oppose the bill — the husbands who support their wives, the fathers who support their daughters — as well as the women “who demand that we be seen as equals.”
Bauer’s comments were followed by loud cheers from protesters in the hallway and soon suppressed applause from fellow Democrats.
“You might not have thought these women would show up,” Bauer said. “Maybe you thought we weren’t paying attention.”
West Virginia lawmakers missed the opportunity on July 29 to be the first state to have a unified ban after the House of Representatives refused to vote on Senate amendments that abolished criminal penalties for doctors who perform illegal abortions. Delegates instead asked for a conference committee to consider the details between the bills.
The debates come amid an evolving landscape of abortion politics across the country while Republicans face party divisions and Democrats see a possible boost in the election year.
The mood in the Indiana House further illustrated a deeply divided room, who previously rejected an amendment that would have removed exceptions for rape and incest. A majority of GOP members wanted their removal.
The House Vote and Legislators’ Debates showed a similar distribution seen in the Senate about those same exceptions, which remained in the Senate bill when an attempt among senators failed last week.
Arleigh Rodgers is a member of the Corps 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