The Indiana House on Friday passed a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state, returning the legislation to the state Senate to confer changes on the House.
House members advanced a near total ban on abortion 62-38 with limited exceptions, including in cases of rape and incest, and to protect the life and physical health of the mother.
The measure now passes the Senate. If approved as is, Indiana lawmakers will become the first in the nation to pass new legislation restricting access to abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling removing its protected status in as a constitutional right. The measure would then go to Governor Eric Holcomb, who did not say whether he would sign it.
Republican Rep. Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who sponsored the bill, said the legislation “reflects the understanding that this is one of the most difficult and contentious issues in our lives.”
Outside the House chamber on Friday, abortion rights activists chanted the lawmakers’ remarks, carrying signs such as “Roe roe roe your vote” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some House Democrats wore blazers over pink “Bans Off Our Bodies” T-shirts.
The House version of the ban added exceptions to protect the health and life of the mother after frequent requests from doctors and others who testified last week before a Senate committee. It also allows abortions if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.
The bill also removes Senate-approved time limits based on age for abortions in cases of rape or incest — up to 12 weeks for those under 16 and eight weeks for those 16 and over. more. Instead, it creates a blanket ban after 10 weeks post fertilization on rape and incest abortions. Victims would not be required to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to an attack.
Friday’s vote came about a week after the Republican-controlled Senate narrowly passed its ban with similar measures. State senators could consider the abortion ban approved by the House on Friday afternoon, when more changes are possible.
House and Senate lawmakers have listened to hours of testimony over the past two weeks, when residents on all sides of the issue have rarely, if ever, backed the legislation. Opposition abortion-rights supporters said the bill went too far while anti-abortion activists said it did not go far enough.
Indiana was among the first Republican-led state legislatures to debate tougher abortion laws after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. The 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 child had come to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” ban.
Democratic Representative Maureen Bauer spoke tearfully of residents in her South Bend district who oppose the bill — husbands standing behind their wives, fathers supporting their daughters — as well as women “who are demanding that we be considered equal”.
Bauer’s comments were followed by loud cheers from hallway protesters and quickly subdued applause from fellow Democrats.
“You may not have thought these women would show up,” Bauer said. “Maybe you thought we wouldn’t be careful.”
On July 29, West Virginia lawmakers passed up the chance to be the first state with a unified ban after its House of Delegates refused to approve Senate amendments that removed criminal penalties for practicing physicians. illegal abortions. Delegates instead asked a conference committee to review the details between the bills.
The debates come amid an evolving landscape of abortion politics across the country as Republicans grapple with party divisions and Democrats see a possible election-year boost.
The Indiana House vote further illustrated a deeply divided house, which once rejected an amendment that would have removed the rape and incest exceptions. A majority of GOP members wanted them removed.
The House vote and lawmakers’ discussions showed a similar split seen in the Senate on those same exceptions, which remained in the Senate bill when an attempt among senators failed last week.