INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana on Friday became the first state in the nation to pass abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as the Republican governor quickly signed a near-total ban on the procedure shortly after lawmakers approved it.
The ban, which goes into effect on September 15, includes some exceptions. Abortions would be allowed in cases of rape and incest, before 10 weeks after fertilization; protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality.
Victims of rape and incest will not be required to sign a notarized affidavit certifying an assault, as had once been proposed.
Under the bill, abortions can only be performed in hospitals or hospital-owned outpatient centers, meaning all abortion clinics would lose their licenses.
A doctor who performs an illegal abortion or fails to file required reports must also lose his or her medical license, a wording that tightens current Indiana law that says a doctor “may” lose her license.
“I am personally so proud of every Indiana resident who came forward to bravely share their views in a debate that is unlikely to end anytime soon,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in the statement announcing he signed the measure. “For my part, as your governor, I will remain vigilant.”
His approval came after the Senate approved the ban 28-19 and the House advanced it 62-38.
Indiana was one of the first Republican-led state legislatures to debate tougher abortion laws after the Supreme Court ruling in June that stripped away constitutional protections for the procedure. But it is the first state to pass a ban through both chambers, after West Virginia lawmakers on July 29 passed up the chance to be that state.
“Happy to have completed this, one of the most challenging things we’ve ever done as a state General Assembly, at least certainly while I’ve been here,” Acting Senate President Rodric Bray told reporters after the vote. “I think this is a great opportunity, and we’ll take advantage of that as we go from here.”
Sen. Sue Glick of LaGrange, who sponsored the bill, said she doesn’t believe “all states file in the same place,” but that most Indiana residents support aspects of the bill.
Some senators from both parties lamented the bill’s provisions and the impact it would have on the state, including low-income women and the health care system. Eight Republicans joined 11 Democrats in voting against the bill, though their reasons for thwarting the measure were mixed.
“We’re going backwards on democracy,” said Democratic Sen. Jean Breaux of Indianapolis, who on Friday wore a green lapel ribbon signifying support for abortion rights. “What other freedoms, what other freedoms are on the chopping block, waiting to be snatched away?”
Republican Sen. Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores spoke about his 21-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome. Bohacek voted against the bill, saying he does not have adequate protections for women with disabilities who are raped.
“If she lost her favorite stuffed animal, she would be heartbroken. Imagine making her have a full-term child,” he said before beginning to choke, then tossing her notes on her seat and walking out of the chamber.
However, Republican Sen. Mike Young of Indianapolis said the bill’s enforcement provisions against doctors are not strict enough.
Such debates demonstrated Indiana residents’ own divisions on the issue, shown in hours of testimony lawmakers heard over the past two weeks. Residents rarely, if ever, voiced support for the legislation in their testimony, as abortion rights supporters said the bill goes too far, while anti-abortion activists said it doesn’t go far enough.
The debates came amid an evolving landscape of abortion policy across the country, as Republicans face some partisan divides and Democrats see potential momentum in the election year.
Republican Rep. Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who sponsored the House bill, told reporters after the House vote that the legislation “makes Indiana one of the most pro-life states in the nation.”
Outside the chambers, abortion rights activists often sang over the lawmakers’ comments, carrying signs like “Roe roe roe your vote” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some House Democrats wore blazers over pink T-shirts that said “Our Bodies Bans.”
Indiana’s ban followed 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 boy had come to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” ban.
Religion was a persistent theme during legislative debates, both in testimonials from residents and in comments from legislators.
In advocating against the House bill, Rep. Ann Vermilion condemned fellow Republicans who have called women “murderers” for getting abortions.
“I believe the promise of the Lord is one of grace and kindness,” she said. “He would not be jumping to convict these women.”