INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers passed a near-total abortion ban on Friday in a sweeping victory division among Republicans and Democratic protests to become the first state to draft and approve sweeping new restrictions on the procedure since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June.
The bill comes just three days after voters in Kansas, another conservative Midwestern state, largely rejected amendment that would have removed protections for abortion rights from their state constitutions, seen nationally as a sign worry about abortion bans. And that’s despite some Indiana Republicans opposing the bill as going too far and others voting against it because of its exemptions.
The end of Roe was the culmination of decades of work by conservatives, opening the door for states to severely restrict or outlaw abortion. Some states pre-empted the abortion bans spurred by the fall of Roe. Lawmakers in other conservative states said they would consider more restrictions.
But at least in the first few weeks since the decision, Republicans have moved slowly and struggled to talk in unison about what comes next. Lawmakers enter South Carolina and West Virginia have weighed proposed bans but have not taken final action. Officers to Iowa, Florida, Nebraska and other conservative states have so far not taken legislative action. And especially in the last few weeks, some Republican politicians have done just that recalibrated its messages regarding this question.
“West Virginia tried it and they backed off the ledge. Kansas tried it and the voters soundly rejected it,” state Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, said before voting against the bill. “Why so? 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 in such black and white. But now this theory has become a reality, and the implications of attitudes are more real.
An Indiana bill that would ban abortion from conception except in certain cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities or when the pregnant woman is at risk of death or certain serious health risks now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican who has encouraged lawmakers to consider new abortion limits through special session he called. Without these limited exceptions, the bill would end legal abortion in Indiana next month if signed by the governor. Currently, the procedure is allowed up to the 22nd week of pregnancy.
“If that’s not the government’s business — protecting life — I don’t know what is,” said Rep. John Young, a Republican who sponsored the bill. He added: “I know there are not enough exemptions for some and too many for others, but it’s a good balance.
The bill passed after two weeks of emotional testimony and heated debate in the state House. Although Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers, the bill’s fate has not always looked certain. When a Senate committee considered the original version of the bill last week, no one came forward to support it: the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana “cruel, dangerous bill” is how Indiana Right to Life described it “weak and disturbing,” and a parade of anti-abortion residents urged lawmakers to reject it.
Abortion-rights protesters regularly attended the State House during the session, sometimes chanting, “Let’s vote! or “Church and State!” so loud from the hallway that it can be hard to hear lawmakers. Several Democrats pointed to the Kansas vote, where 59 percent of voters chose to preserve abortion rights, as an example of the political risks Republicans have taken. Democrats proposed putting the issue to a non-binding vote in Indiana, and Republicans rejected it.
More information on the Kansas abortion vote
“Judging by the results I saw in Kansas the other day,” said Democrat Phil GiaQuinta of Indiana, who opposes the bill, “independents, Democrats and Republicans have shown with their votes what’s most important to them and to me, which is. our personal liberties and freedom’.
Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston, a Republican, said he was pleased with the final version of the bill. But when asked about the protests in Indianapolis and the vote in Kansas, he acknowledged that many disagreed.
“What we’ve talked about is that voters have an opportunity to vote, and if they’re unhappy, they’ll have that opportunity in November and for years to come,” Mr. Huston said.
Democrats have warned of the ramifications of passing the bill, noting that the state is the first to do so in America since Roe. Business leaders voiced their concerns before it was released: The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce urged The Legislature did not pass the bill this week, saying it could pose a threat to public health and state business interests.
State Sen. Eddie D. Melton, a Democrat who represents parts of northwest Indiana, spoke out against the bill on the Senate floor Friday, calling it a rushed process and a power grab.
He reminded Republicans of this week’s resounding abortion rights vote in Kansas, warning Indiana lawmakers that the party could face a voter backlash.
“If it goes through, the only referendum left will be in November,” he said.
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 window for the public to debate its implications.
“A law passed in haste is often a bad law,” she said. “It underscores the fact that these guys are not anticipating how unenforceable this legislation is going to be.” This will affect thousands of people who get pregnant in Indiana alone.
The divisions of the Republican Party were repeatedly demonstrated during the session. Representative Ann Vermilion described herself as a proud Republican. But she said she believes the legislation has gone too far and too fast.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to move abortion rights to the state level peeled back the details of abortion, revealing layers and layers of such a complex subject that I myself was unprepared for. Ms. Vermilion said before voting against the bill.
Other Republicans echoed complaints made during public testimony by anti-abortion residents, advocacy groups and religious leaders. They questioned how lawmakers, who have portrayed themselves to voters as staunch anti-abortion opponents, would now balk at passing a ban without exceptions for rape and incest. Some abortion opponents have argued that rape and incest, while traumatic, do not justify ending the life of a fetus that did not control its own conception.
“This bill justifies the wicked, those who kill babies, and punishes the righteous, the born human,” said Representative John Jacob, a Republican who also voted against the bill. He added: “Republicans campaigned that they were pro-life. Pro-life means for life. It’s not just some lives. It means all lives.”
A similar debate took place in West Virginia, where the House of Delegates passed legislation that would ban nearly all abortions. But controversy erupted when the Senate narrowly moved to eliminate criminal penalties for medical providers who perform illegal abortions, fearing it could worsen existing health care worker shortages. The legislation stalled.
Delegate Danielle Walker, Democrat of West Virginia, said she believed the abortion referendum in Kansas was a wake-up call to the more moderate contingent of Republican lawmakers.
“I think they see people coming to the polls because people don’t want it, people don’t support it,” Ms Walker said.
Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, said Indiana offered a glimpse of a dynamic that could intensify in other legislatures in the coming weeks: the difficulty of pleasing their conservative base when faced with other public opposition. on abortion restrictions.
“Legislators in the state of Indiana are now between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “They’re between their base,” which calls for a blanket ban on abortion, “and members of the public who say, ‘We support abortion.’ You can see how legislators balancing people’s rights also look at the next election”.
Ava Sasani contributed to reporting.