Arleigh Rodgers / AP
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana on Friday became the first state in the country to approve abortion restrictions since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, with the Republican governor quickly signing a near-total ban on the procedure soon after lawmakers approved it.
The ban, which takes effect on September 15, includes some exceptions. Abortion is allowed in cases of rape and incest before 10 weeks after fertilization; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; And if the fetus was diagnosed with a fatal malformation. Victims of rape and incest will not be required to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to an attack, as has been suggested before.
Under the bill, abortions can only be performed in hospitals or hospital-owned outpatient clinics, which means all abortion clinics will lose their licenses. A doctor who performs an illegal abortion or fails to provide the required reports must also lose his or her medical license — wording that toughens current Indiana law that says a doctor “may” lose their license.
In the statement announcing that he signed the measure, Governor Eric Holcomb said, “I am personally most proud of every Hauser who has come forward to courageously share his views in a debate that is unlikely to stop any time soon.” “For my part as ruler, I will continue to keep my ears open.”
His approval came after the Senate approved Ban 28-19 and the House submitted it 62 to 38.
Indiana was among the earliest Republican-run state legislatures to debate stricter abortion laws after a June Supreme Court ruling that removed constitutional protections for the procedure. But it is the first state to pass a ban through both houses, after West Virginia lawmakers on July 29 missed the chance to be that state.
“I’m delighted to have this completed, and it’s one of the most challenging things we’ve done as a state assembly, at least certainly while I’m here,” pro-Tim Senate President Roderick Bray told reporters after the vote. “I think this is a huge opportunity, and we will build on it as we move forward from here.”
Senator Sue Glick of Lagrange, who sponsored the bill, said she doesn’t think “all states will land in the same place” but that most Indiana residents support aspects of the bill.
Some senators from both parties lamented the law’s provisions and its impact on the state, including on low-income women and the health care system. Eight Republicans joined all 11 Democrats in voting against the bill, although their reasons for thwarting the measure were mixed.
“We’re backing away from democracy,” said Democratic Senator Jean Brough of Indianapolis, who wore a green ribbon on Friday to signify support for abortion rights, on her lapel. “What are the other liberties, and what are the other liberties waiting to be stripped from?”
Republican Senator Mike Pohachik of Michigan Shores spoke about his 21-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome. Pohaček voted against the bill, saying it did not contain sufficient protections for women with disabilities who are raped.
“If she loses her favorite stuffed animal, she’ll be so inconsolable,” he said before starting to choke, then throws his notes on his seat and walks out of the room. “Imagine making her hold a baby until she’s finished.”
However, Republican Senator Mike Young of Indianapolis said law enforcement rulings against doctors are not strict enough.
Debates like these have exposed Indiana residents’ divisions on the issue, which have been presented within hours of testimony that lawmakers have heard over the past two weeks. Residents rarely, if ever, expressed support for the legislation in their testimony, with abortion rights advocates saying the law goes too far while anti-abortion activists say it doesn’t do the trick.
The discussions came amid an evolving landscape of abortion politics across the country as Republicans grapple with some partisan divides and Democrats see a potential boost in an 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 country.”
Outside the rooms, abortion rights activists often cheered the MPs’ statements, carrying banners such as “Ru ru ru your voice” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some members of the House of Representatives were wearing jackets over pink T-shirts bearing the slogan “Ban Outside Our Bodies”.
The Indiana ban came in the wake of the political storm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate her pregnancy. The case drew attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the baby came to Indiana because of Ohio’s ban on “fetal heartbeat.”
Religion has been a constant topic during legislative debates, both in the testimonies of residents and the comments of legislators.
In advocating against the House bill, Representative Ann Vermillion denounced fellow Republicans who called women “murderers” for their abortions.
“I think the Lord’s promise is grace and kindness,” she said. “He will not jump to condemn these women.”