Majority of House Republicans supported removing rape, incest exceptions from Indiana abortion bill

House Republicans attempted to remove exceptions for rape and incest from the state's proposed near-total abortion ban on Thursday, but just like Republicans in the Senate, they were unsuccessful.

The vote failed 39-61 with all Democrats and some Republicans voting no. However, a majority of Republicans voted to remove the exceptions from the bill that bans most abortions at zero weeks. Of Republicans in the House, 39 lawmakers voted to remove those exceptions, while 32 voted with Democrats to keep exceptions for rape and incest in the bill.

The House is poised to vote on the bill on Friday.

The vote split on that amendment, one of about two dozen that were called on Thursday, and some other contentious questions shows the continued disagreement within the Republican party of how far the abortion bill should go, and the delicate position the bill is in ahead of a House vote Friday. Both those Republicans who don't think the bill goes far enough and those who think it goes too far have threatened to vote against it.

Debate on that amendment lasted about 35 minutes, about a quarter of the length of time the smaller Senate took debating a similar contentious question last week. Chants from abortion-rights supporters in the hall occasionally crept through the chamber, but the crowd of protesters flocking to the Statehouse has shrunk considerably since the start of the abortion debate last week.

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The amendment from Rep. Karen Engleman, R-Georgetown, would have only kept exceptions in the bill when necessary to protect the pregnant person's health or life. During her opening, Engleman, who serves in House leadership as an assistant majority floor leader, referenced her own experience as a teen mother, and her decision to keep her baby.

“I made the right decision," Engleman said. "I do not think a baby is a choice. It’s a child.”

During debate, Democrats emphasized that the amendment would force 10- and 11-year-olds to have a child if raped.

“Imagine a child of 80 pounds having a 7-pound baby coming through her birth canal," Rep. Rita Fleming, D-Jeffersonville, said during floor debate. "That is inhumane. We cannot do this to our children.”

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Last week, the Senate rejected a similar measure by 28-18, with Republicans evenly split on the issue.

Republican lawmakers called down multiple amendments Thursday that forced the House Republican caucus to publicly grapple with where they stand on abortion, after years of being able to avoid the issue.

Republicans were almost evenly split on a proposal from Rep. J. Michael Davisson, R-Salem, to nix exceptions in the bill for fatal fetal abnormalities. That vote failed 35-65, with 35 Republicans voting to nix the exception and 36 Republicans voting to keep it.

But the bill that generated far more contention during the debate was one from outgoing Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Milford, that would have banned all abortions and criminalized women who sought such abortions. He and Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis, pushed for a total ban even prior to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and are on the outs with those in their caucus. Both lost their reelection bid, after their opponents were backed by House leadership.

During the debate, Jacob criticized lawmakers multiple times for condoning "murder" by not completely banning abortion. And multiple times House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, had to remind him not to question the motives of his colleagues.

“There is a right and a wrong Mr. Speaker," Jacob said raising his voice. "Murder is wrong.”

That amendment failed decisively, with a 6-93 vote.

Other Republicans attempted to push Senate Bill 1, the abortion proposal, in the opposite direction: slightly expanding access to abortion. Even those proposals, though, would have been more restrictive than what's currently in Indiana law regarding abortions.

Rep. Cindy Ziemke, R-Batesville, filed a proposal to allow all abortions up until 13 weeks postfertilization, but the measure failed with a 34-64 vote. Six Republicans voted for it.

Lawmakers also rejected an amendment that would have allowed abortions due to rape or incest up until 20 weeks postferilization, instead of 10 as is currently in the bill.

If the bill passes the House, the Senate will have to vote on whether to approve the changes the House made. If the chamber approves the changes, it will go to Gov. Eric Holcomb's desk for consideration. If not, the two sides will attempt to hammer out a compromise.

They have to end the session before Aug. 15.

Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270 or email her at Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana abortion law: House GOP tried to remove rape, incest exceptions