Indiana Lawmakers Pass First Post-Ree Abortion Ban, With Limited Exceptions

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers passed a near-complete abortion ban on Friday, overcoming divisions among Republicans and Democrat protests and becoming the first state to set and approve sweeping new limits on proceedings since Roe v. Wade was brought down in June.

The bill’s approval came just three days after voters in Kansas, another conservative Midwestern state, overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have stripped the protection of abortion rights from their state constitution, a result seen nationally as a sign of unease about the abortion ban. And it came despite some Republicans in Indiana opposing the bill because it went too far, and others voting no because of the exceptions.

Roe’s end was the culmination of decades of conservative work opening the door for states to severely restrict or completely ban abortion. Some states have prepared ahead of time with abortion bans triggered by Roe’s fall. Lawmakers in other conservative states said they would consider more restrictions.

But, at least in the first weeks since that decision, Republicans have moved slowly and struggled to speak with a unified voice about what comes next. Lawmakers in South Carolina and West Virginia weighed in, but took no definitive action on proposed bans. Officials in Iowa, Florida, Nebraska and other conservative states have so far taken no legislative action. And especially in recent weeks, some Republican politicians have recalibrated their coverage on the issue.

“West Virginia tried and they stepped back from the ledge. Kansas has tried and the voters have firmly rejected it,” State Representative Justin Moed, an Indianapolis Democrat, said on the House floor before voting against the bill. “Why is that? Because until now it was just a theory. It was easy for people to say they were pro-life. It was easy to see things so black and white. But now that theory has become a reality and the consequences of the views are more real.”

The Indiana law — which prohibits abortion from conception except in some cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality, or when the pregnant woman is at risk of death or certain serious health risks — now passes to Governor Eric Holcomb, a Republican who encouraged to consider new abortion limits during a special session he called. Barring those limited exceptions, the bill would end legal abortion in Indiana next month if signed by the governor. The procedure is currently allowed up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

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“If this isn’t a government issue — protecting life — I don’t know what is,” said Representative John Young, a Republican who supported the bill. He added: “I know the exceptions aren’t enough for some and too many for others, but it’s a good balance.”

The bill’s approval came after two weeks of emotional testimony and bitter debate in the Statehouse. Although Republicans hold the predominant majority in both chambers, the fate of the bill did not always seem safe. When a Senate committee considered an initial draft of the bill last week, no one showed up to support it: The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana called it a “cruel, dangerous bill”Indiana Right to Life described it as “weak and disturbing,” and a parade of residents with differing views on abortion all urged lawmakers to reject it.

Abortion rights protesters regularly attended the Statehouse during the session, sometimes chanting “Let’s vote!” or “Church and state!” so loud from the hallway it can be hard to hear lawmakers. Several Democrats invoked the Kansas vote, in which 59 percent of voters decided to retain abortion rights, as an example of the political risk Republicans were taking. Democrats proposed putting the issue in a non-binding state vote in Indiana, which Republicans rejected.

“Judging by the results I saw in Kansas recently,” said Representative Phil GiaQuinta, a Democrat who opposed the Indiana bill, “Independents, Democrats, and Republicans have shown through their votes what matters most to them, and to me.” , and that is our personal freedoms and freedom.”

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Todd Huston, the Republican speaker of the Indiana House, said he was pleased with the final draft of the bill. But when asked about the Indianapolis protests and the Kansas vote, he acknowledged that many disagreed.

“We’ve talked about voters having the opportunity to vote, and if they’re dissatisfied, they’ll have that opportunity both in November and in years to come,” Mr Huston said.

Democrats warned of the ramifications of passing the bill, noting the state’s status as the first to do so in a post-Roe America. Business executives voiced concerns before it was passed: The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce this week urged lawmakers not to pass the bill because it could threaten public health and the state’s business interests.

Jennifer Drobac, a law professor at Indiana University Bloomington, said she was concerned about the speed with which the bill passed in her state and the relatively short time frame for the public to debate its implications.

“Law made in haste is often a bad law,” she said. “This highlights the fact that these guys are not anticipating how unworkable this legislation will be. This affects thousands of people who get pregnant in Indiana alone.”

Divisions within the Republican Party were seen repeatedly during the session. Representative Ann Vermilion described herself as a proud Republican. But said she felt the legislation went too far and too fast.

“The US Supreme Court has made the decision to move abortion rights to the state level, which has peeled an onion over the details of abortion, showing layers and layers of such a difficult subject that I was not prepared for myself,” Ms. Vermilion said before voting against the bill.

Other Republicans echoed the complaints made during public testimony from anti-abortion residents, advocacy groups and religious leaders. They wondered how lawmakers who portrayed themselves to voters as staunch opponents of abortion now missed an opportunity to issue a ban with no exceptions for rape and incest. Some opponents of abortion have argued that rape and incest, while traumatic, do not justify ending the life of a fetus that had no control over its conception.

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“This bill justifies the wicked, those murdering babies, and punishes the righteous, the unborn man,” said Representative John Jacob, a Republican who also voted against the bill. He added: “Republicans campaigned to be pro-life. Pro-life means for life. Those are not just some lives. That means all lives.”

Similar debates have played out in West Virginia, where the House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban almost all abortions. But disagreements arose when the Senate narrowly voted to lift criminal penalties for medical providers who illegally perform abortions, fearing it could exacerbate the state’s existing shortage of health workers. The law is stuck.

Representative Danielle Walker, a Democrat from West Virginia, said she believed the Kansas abortion referendum was a wake-up call for the more moderate contingent of Republican lawmakers.

“I think they see people coming to the polls because people don’t want this, people don’t support it,” Ms Walker said.

Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst with the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, said Indiana offered a glimpse of the dynamics that other legislatures could be delving into in the coming weeks: the difficulty of pleasing their conservative base in the face of other public opposition. to abortion restrictions.

“In Indiana, lawmakers are now between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “They find themselves between their grassroots, who without exception demand an abortion ban, “and members of the public who say, ‘We support access to abortion.’ You can see how the lawmakers, who are balancing people’s rights, are also looking at the next election.”

Ava Sasanic reporting contributed.

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