INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s Legislature became the first in the nation Friday to pass new legislation restricting access to abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has not indicated whether he will sign it.
Indiana was among the earliest Republican-run state legislatures to debate tighter abortion laws after the Supreme Court ruling in June that removed constitutional protections for the procedure. It is the first state to pass a ban through both chambers, after West Virginia lawmakers on July 29 passed up the chance to be that state.
The debates come amid an evolving landscape of abortion politics across the country as Republicans face some party divisions and Democrats see a possible election-year boost.
The Senate approved the near-total ban 28-19, hours after House members advanced it 62-38.
It includes limited exceptions, including in cases of rape and incest, and to protect the life and physical health of the mother. The exceptions for rape and incest are limited to 10 weeks post-fertilization, meaning victims could not get an abortion in Indiana after that. Victims would not be required to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to an attack.
Republican Rep. Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who sponsored the bill, told reporters after the House vote that the legislation “makes Indiana one of the most pro-life states in the nation.”
Outside the House chamber, abortion-rights activists often chanted over lawmakers’ remarks, 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.
The House added exceptions for protecting the health and life of the mother after repeated requests from doctors and others. It also allows abortions if a fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly.
Indiana lawmakers listened to hours of testimony over the past two weeks in which residents on all sides of the issue rarely, if ever, supported the legislation. Abortion-rights supporters said the bill goes too far, while anti-abortion activists expressed it doesn’t go far enough.
The House also rejected, largely on party lines, a Democratic proposal to place a non-binding question on the statewide November election ballot: “Shall abortion remain legal in Indiana?”
The proposal came after Kansas voters resoundingly rejected a measure that would have allowed the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten abortion in the first test of voters’ feelings about the issue since Roe was overturned.
Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston told reporters that if residents are unhappy, they can vote for new lawmakers.
“Ultimately it’s up to the Senate,” he said. “Voters have an opportunity to vote, and if they’re displeased, they’ll have an opportunity both in November and in future years.”
Indiana’s proposed ban also came after the political firestorm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to end her pregnancy. The case gained attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child came to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” ban.
Democratic Rep. Maureen Bauer spoke tearfully before Friday’s vote about people in her South Bend district who oppose the bill — the husbands standing behind their wives, the fathers supporting their daughters — as well as the women “who are demanding that we are seen as equal.”
Bauer’s comments were followed by raucous cheers from protesters in the hallway and subdued applause from fellow Democrats.
“You may not have thought that these women would show up,” Bauer said. “Maybe you thought we wouldn’t be paying attention.”
West Virginia legislators on July 29 passed up the chance to be the first state with a unified ban after its House of Delegates refused to concur with Senate amendments that removed criminal penalties for physicians who perform illegal abortions. Delegates instead asked for a conference committee to consider the details of the bills.
The debates come amid an evolving landscape of abortion politics across the country as Republicans face party divisions and Democrats see a possible election-year boost.
Religion was a persistent theme during the special session, both in residents’ testimony and lawmakers’ comments.
In advocating against the bill, Rep. Ann Vermilion condemned her fellow Republicans calling women who obtained abortions “murderers.”
“I think that the Lord’s promise is for grace and kindness,” she said. “He would not be jumping to condemn these women.”
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.