Indiana lawmakers pass first post-Roe abortion ban

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers approved a near-total ban on abortion Friday, besting divide between republicans and protests by Democrats to become the first state to write and pass sweeping new limits on the procedure since Roe v. Wade was overruled in June.

The bill’s passage came just three days after voters in Kansas, another conservative Midwestern state, overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have removed abortion-rights protections from its state Constitution, a result seen nationally as a sign of discomfort with the abortion ban. And it came despite the fact that some Indiana Republicans opposed the bill for going too far and others voted against it because of its exceptions.

The end of Roe was the culmination of decades of work by conservatives, opening the door for states to severely restrict abortion or ban it outright. Some states prepared in advance with abortion bans that were triggered by Roe’s fall. Lawmakers from other conservative states said they would consider more restrictions.

But, at least in the first few weeks since that decision, Republicans have been slow to move and have struggled to speak with a unified voice about what comes next. legislators in South Carolina and West Virginia weighed but did not take any final action on the proposed bans. officials in Iowa, Florida, Nebraska and other conservative states have so far taken no legislative action. And especially in recent weeks, some Republican politicians have they recalibrated their messages about the topic.

“West Virginia tried, and they backed off the ledge. Kansas tried it and the voters flatly rejected it,” state Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, said on the House floor before voting against the bill. “Why is that? Because until now it’s just been a theory. It was easy for people to say they were pro-life. It was easy to see things so black and white. But now, that theory has become reality, and the consequences of the points of view are more real”.

Indiana’s bill, which bans abortion from conception except in certain cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality, or when the pregnant woman faces risk of death or certain serious health risks, now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican who encouraged lawmakers to consider new limits on abortion during a special session he called. Beyond those narrow exceptions, the bill would end legal abortion in Indiana next month if signed by the governor. Currently, the procedure is allowed up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“If this isn’t a government issue, protecting life, I don’t know what is,” said Rep. John Young, a Republican who supported the bill. He added: “I know the exceptions are not enough for some and too much for others, but it’s a good balance.”

The bill’s passage came after two weeks of emotional testimony and bitter debate in the House of Representatives. Although Republicans have commanding majorities in both chambers, the bill’s fate did not always seem certain. When a Senate committee considered an initial version of the bill last week, no one came forward to testify for it: The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana called it a “cruel and dangerous bill”, Indiana Right to Life described him as “weak and worrying”, and a parade of residents with different views on abortion urged lawmakers to reject it.

Abortion rights protesters were a regular presence in the House of Representatives during the session, sometimes chanting “Let’s vote!” or “Church and State!” so loud from the hallway that it might be hard to hear lawmakers. Several Democrats cited the Kansas vote, in which 59 percent of voters decided to preserve abortion rights, as an example of the political risk Republicans were taking. Democrats suggested putting the issue to a nonbinding statewide vote in Indiana, which Republicans rejected.

“Judging by the results I saw in Kansas the other day,” said Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, a Democrat who opposed the Indiana bill, “independents, Democrats and Republicans with their votes showed what is most important to them and for me, and that is our freedoms and personal freedoms”.

Todd Houston, the Republican speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, 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.

“We have talked about the fact that voters have the opportunity to vote, and if they are not satisfied, they will have that opportunity both in November and in future years,” said Mr. Houston.

Democrats warned of the consequences of passing the bill, noting the state’s status as the first to do so in a post-Roe America. Business leaders voiced concern over passage: Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce urged the Legislature this week not to pass the bill, saying it could threaten public health and the the commercial interests of the state.

Jennifer Drobac, a law professor at Indiana University Bloomington, said she was concerned about the speed at which the bill passed in her state and the relatively short window for the public to debate its implications.

“Law made in haste is often bad law,” he said. “This highlights the fact that these guys don’t anticipate how unworkable this legislation is going to be. This will affect thousands of people who get pregnant in Indiana alone.”

Divisions within the Republican Party were repeatedly on display during the session. Rep. Ann Vermilion described herself as a proud Republican. But she said that she thought the legislation went too far, too fast.

“The US Supreme Court made the decision to move abortion rights to the state level, which has laid bare the details of abortion, revealing layers and layers of such a difficult topic that I myself was not prepared for” . said Ms. Vermilion before voting against the bill.

Other Republicans echoed the complaints voiced during public testimony from anti-abortion residents, advocacy groups and religious leaders. They questioned how lawmakers who portrayed themselves to voters as staunch opponents of abortion were now missing the chance to pass a sweeping ban on rape and incest. Some opponents of abortion have argued that rape and incest, while traumatic, do not justify ending the life of a fetus that had no control over its conception.

“This bill justifies the wicked, the baby killers, and punishes the righteous, the unborn human beings,” said Rep. John Jacob, a Republican who also voted against the bill. He added: “Republicans campaigned that they are pro-life. Pro-life means for life. That’s not just a few lifetimes. That means all lives.

Similar debates played out in West Virginia, where the House of Delegates passed a bill that would ban nearly all abortions. But disagreement erupted when the Senate narrowly decided to eliminate criminal penalties for medical providers who illegally perform abortions, citing fears it could worsen an existing shortage of health care workers in the state. The legislation is stalled.

Delegate Danielle Walker, a Democrat from West Virginia, said she believed the Kansas abortion referendum was a wake-up call for the more moderate contingent of Republican lawmakers.

“I think they’re seeing people go to the polls because people don’t want this, people don’t support it,” Ms. Walker said.

Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, said Indiana offered a glimpse of a dynamic that could deepen in other legislatures in the coming weeks: the difficulty of pleasing its conservative base in the face of other opposition. public. to abortion restrictions.

“In Indiana, lawmakers are now between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “They’re between your base,” who are calling for a ban on abortion without exception, “and members of the public who are saying, ‘We support abortion access.’ You can see how the legislators, who are balancing the rights of the people, are also looking ahead to the upcoming elections.”

ava sasani contributed report.

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