Indiana lawmakers vote to maintain abortion exemptions in place

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana’s deeply divided House voted Thursday to include rape or incest exemptions in a law that bans nearly all abortions. in the state.

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives voted 61-39 in favor of an amendment that would eliminate those exemptions, while most GOP members wanted to remove them.

The House vote revealed a similar division among Republicans as in the state Senate over the rape and incest exemptions that remained in the bill after the Senate also failed to repeal those exemptions last week..

Republican Representative Karen Engleman sponsored the amendment, arguing that even a child conceived during a rape or incest attack deserves a chance at life.

“Deliberate termination of human life has no place in the practice of medicine,” Engleman said.

Indiana’s proposal comes after a political firestorm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate their pregnancies. The case received much attention when an Indianapolis physician said the child had to travel to Indiana because a new Ohio law prohibits abortion if a heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks into pregnancy.

Democratic lawmakers questioned Engleman on whether the girl’s abortion would be banned if her amendment passed. Engleman, who said she had the child as an unmarried teenager, said doctors can still determine whether the pregnancy poses a threat to the young woman’s life.

Republican leadership said earlier this week that they support exemptions for rape and incest. Republican House Speaker Todd Huston and GOP Rep. Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who is sponsoring the bill in the House, said Monday they support allowing those exemptions.

McNamara said Monday that the law needs to be “fair to people who have been traumatized in rape and incest situations.”

While 39 House Republicans voted Thursday to strip the bill of rape or incest exemptions, 32 Republicans joined all 29 House Democrats in leaving them in the bill. With likely unified Democratic opposition to the entire bill, Republican opponents of the exemptions will need to vote for the bill to pass. That vote could take place on Friday.

The Republican-controlled state Senate narrowly passed an abortion ban on Saturday, 26-20, securing the minimum 26 votes needed to send it to the House of Representatives.

The House on Thursday also rejected, largely along party lines, a Democratic proposal calling for a non-binding question to be placed on the statewide November ballot.: “Will abortion remain legal in Indiana?”

The proposal comes after Kansas voters rejected the measure on Tuesday that would have allowed the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten abortion restrictions or ban the procedure altogether. The vote was the first test of voters’ feelings on abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

McNamara spoke against the ballot question, pointing out that Indiana law does not require statewide referendums. The only such statewide vote is on proposed constitutional amendments after they have been approved by two separately elected lawmakers.

Democratic Rep. Sue Errington of Muncie said Indiana voters want to have a say on whether abortion should be legal.

“I don’t know if it’s going to turn out like it did in Kansas,” Errington said. “I hope so, but I have no such guarantee.

Last week, thousands of demonstrators on all sides of the abortion issue filled the hallways of the Statehouse and the sidewalks around the building as the Senate debated the bill. More than 100 people testified during a roughly nine-hour House committee hearing Tuesday. Only a handful of demonstrators watched Thursday’s debate from the floor and its gallery.

A House committee moved its version of the Senate-approved bill on Tuesday. The House bill would allow abortion exceptions for the physical health and life of the mother, as well as if the fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality. It also adjusted the period when abortions will be allowed in cases of rape and incest.

The Senate voted to allow abortions up to 12 weeks after conception for those under 16 and eight weeks for those 16 and older. Instead, the House version would have imposed a complete ban on abortion after 10 weeks of conception in cases of rape and incest. The victim will also no longer be required to sign a notarized statement confirming the assault.


Arleigh Rodgers is a staff member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that allows reporters to report classified issues to local newsrooms. Follow her on Twitter

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