Indiana Legislature first to pass abortion ban after Roe

The debates come amid an evolving landscape of abortion policy across the country, as Republicans face some partisan divides and Democrats see potential momentum in the election year.

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 rape and incest exceptions are limited to 10 weeks after fertilization, which means victims can’t get abortions in Indiana after that. Victims will 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 sang over the lawmakers’ comments, carrying signs like “Roe roe roe your vote” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some House Democrats wore blazers over pink T-shirts that read “Our Bodies Bans.”

The House added exceptions to protect 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 fatal abnormality.

Indiana lawmakers heard 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 said it doesn’t go far enough.

The House of Representatives also rejected, largely on partisan grounds, a Democratic proposal to place a nonbinding question on the statewide ballot in November: “Should abortion remain legal in Indiana?”

The proposal came after Kansas voters roundly rejected a measure that would have allowed the Republican-controlled state Legislature to toughen abortion in the first test of voter sentiment on the issue since Roe was struck down.

Indiana House Speaker Todd Houston told reporters that if residents aren’t happy, they can vote for new lawmakers.

“Ultimately, it’s up to the Senate,” he said. “Voters have the opportunity to vote, and if they are not satisfied, they will have the opportunity both in November and for years to come.”

Indiana’s proposed ban also came after 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 boy had come to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” ban.

Democratic Rep. Maureen Bauer spoke through tears before Friday’s vote about people in her South Bend district who oppose the bill (husbands who support their wives, fathers who support their daughters), as well as to women “who demand to be seen as equals.”

Bauer’s comments were followed by raucous cheers from protesters in the hallway and subdued applause from his fellow Democrats.

“You may not have thought these women would show up,” Bauer said. “Maybe you thought we wouldn’t be paying attention.”

On July 29, West Virginia lawmakers passed up the opportunity to be the first state with a unified ban after their House of Delegates refused to agree to Senate amendments that eliminated criminal penalties for doctors who perform illegal abortions. Instead, delegates asked that a conference committee consider the details between the bills.

The debates come amid an evolving landscape of abortion policy across the country, as Republicans face partisan divides and Democrats see potential momentum in the election year.

Religion was a persistent theme during the special session, both in testimony from residents and in comments from lawmakers.

In advocating against the bill, Rep. Ann Vermilion condemned fellow Republicans for calling women who aborted “murderers.”

“I believe the promise of the Lord is one of grace and kindness,” he said. “He would not be jumping to convict these women.”

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