A restrictive abortion bill is on its way to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s desk, despite fierce opposition from several Republican lawmakers, and critics who described the legislation as “bat-shit” and unconstitutional.
The bill, called HB 1337, would ban abortions sought because of fetal gender, race or abnormality. If signed into law, women wouldn't be able to seek an abortion because a fetus was diagnosed “with Down syndrome or any other disability.” (Presumably, this would include potential defects caused by Zika virus infection -- the first case of which was confirmed in Indiana just this week.)
It would also allow doctors who perform abortions under such circumstances to be sued for wrongful death.
Opponents said the measure would require women to endure potentially complicated, high-risk pregnancies, and could result in patients feeling unable to speak openly with their doctors.
On Wednesday, the GOP-controlled House voted 60-40 in favor of the bill.
“Those unborn children are Hoosiers and they have constitutional rights,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said, per The Associated Press. “We're not making a determination about women's health. We are trying to protect the right of the unborn; they cannot speak for themselves.”
If the bill is signed into law, Indiana will become the second state after North Dakota to ban abortions sought because of fetal disabilities.
Several female Republican lawmakers spoke out against the bill, the Indianapolis Star reported, arguing that the legislation “didn’t follow the normal legislative process, was poorly written and wouldn’t reduce abortions in the state.”
Abortion laws in Indiana were already among the most restrictive in the U.S. State law currently prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the new bill would prevent women from seeking an abortion at any time unless she could prove that her “sole reason” for termination was not due to concerns about gender, race or disability.
“The bill does nothing to save innocent lives. There's no education, there's no funding. It's just penalties,” said Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica), who last year sponsored an anti-abortion bill that took aim at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
“I feel this is government overreaching. We haven’t done a proper process to vet this," said Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Beech Grove). "I feel that I’m determining whose life has more importance here."
Many opponents have found fault with how the bill was approved in the first place, AP reported. An earlier version of the legislation that was passed by the House did not include the ban, which was added in the Senate. The bill did not go through the full legislative process in the House; instead it was “sent it to the floor for a vote, under a procedural maneuver that did not allow lawmakers to make changes.”
“It saddens me and makes me sick to my stomach to be up here right now,” Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville), who describes herself as a pro-life advocate, said during a debate over the bill. “It's bills like these that make people like me really hate the system.”
Other than the ban, the bill includes provisions regulating how miscarried or aborted fetuses are handled. As Jezebel explained, the bill would make women who sought abortions and women who miscarried responsible for the disposal of the fetus. As well as additional trauma, this would likely increase the financial burden of their medical care, the website noted.
The bill now awaits the governor's pen.
“As a strong supporter of the rights of the unborn, [the governor] will give careful consideration to any bill that comes to his desk that defends the sanctity of human life,” a spokeswoman said this week.
On Wednesday, the Florida Senate passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would tighten restrictions on abortion clinics. The bill, called SB 1722, is now headed to the desk of Republican Governor Rick Scott.