Indiana considers bill restricting abortion, but pro-lifers warn it may be inadvertently expanding it


UPDATE, 7/26/22, 9:03 pm: The Thomas More Society is warning that while proponents of Senate Bill 1 say that it will restrict most abortions, the bill’s text redefines abortion in a way that could inadvertently expand it. A memo prepared by the Thomas More Society’s Legislative Initiative notes that the bill’s redefinition of abortion would result in the following:

  • expansion of taxpayer funding of abortion for children with disabilities
  • removal of conscience protections from pro-life healthcare providers
  • partial repeal of the live dismemberment abortion ban
  • removal of informed consent requirements for abortions of  babies with disabilities
  • partial repeal of disability-discrimination abortion ban
  • partial repeal of requirements for dignified disposal of aborted remains
  • partial repeal of prohibitions on transporting and performing experiments on aborted remains.

Peter Breen, Vice President and Senior Counsel of Thomas More Society testified in the Indiana Statehouse on July 25 to applaud the lawmakers’ pro-life sentiments while cautioning them about the language used in the measure. “Our mission is to assist state legislators with the right words to draft pro-life legislation that actually does what you want the legislation to do,” he said.

7/26/22, 1:44 pm Indiana lawmakers convened a special session Monday afternoon to consider Senate Bill 1, which would restrict abortion in all cases, except when there is a threat of “substantial permanent impairment” to the mother, or in cases of rape and incest. This makes Indiana the first state to hold a special legislative session to consider its abortion laws since Roe v. Wade was overturned in late June.

The start of the session drew a large crowd of thousands of activists on both sides of the issue. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Indianapolis on Monday to meet with Democratic lawmakers, to discuss what she called a “health care crisis.”

“An individual should be able to choose based on their personal beliefs and the dictates of their faith. But the government should not be telling an individual what to do, especially as it relates to one of the most intimate and personal decisions a woman could make,” Harris said.

Currently, abortion is legal in the state up to 22 weeks gestation, though there are certain restrictions in place including an 18-hour waiting period, counseling, and ultrasound requirements. Parents must also give their consent for a minor to have an abortion.

READ: Indiana parental consent law goes into effect after five years of court delays

Indiana Right to Life expressed its disappointment that the legislation doesn’t do more to protect preborn lives, noting that it has few enforcement mechanisms to ensure that it’s actually enforced.

“SB 1 is a weak and troubling bill. IRTL brought the voice of prolife Hoosiers to the Senate shortly after the Dobbs ruling, and this bill falls woefully short of what was outlined in that discussion,” they said in a statement. “The bill fails substantively in many areas, including its failure to provide any meaningful enforcement provisions. This bill goes through the motions on paper, but lacks any teeth to actually reduce abortions in Indiana by holding those who perform abortions or would intentionally skirt the law accountable with criminal consequences. As the bill reads now, the 8,000-plus abortions that take place annually in Indiana would continue unabated in counties like Marion County where the prosecutor has already stated he will not enforce the law. That is unacceptable and prolife Hoosiers will not silently let that stand.”

WTHR reported that in addition to the abortion restriction bill, Senate Republicans also introduced companion legislation that would allocate $45 million more in funding for state agencies that “support the health of pregnant women, postpartum mothers, and infants.” Funding would be available for families with children under four years of age, with an additional $5 million in additional tax credits for adoptive families. A separate bill would expand the adoption tax credit and offer $58 million for services for pregnant women, including $30 million for pregnancy-related costs under Medicaid.

According to CNN, Senate leaders hope to vote on the bill by July 29. If it passes both the Senate and the House, it will go into effect on September 1.

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