Sweeping Indiana abortion ban enacted, the first such law since Roe overturned

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Indiana has approved a near-total ban on abortion that will take effect Sept. 15, making the state the first in the nation to pass sweeping abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced late Friday he had signed the measure, known as Senate Bill 1, within an hour of its passage, capping a marathon day that saw both chambers pass the bill outlawing abortion except for several narrow exceptions.

“Following the overturning of Roe, I stated clearly that I would be willing to support legislation that made progress in protecting life," Holcomb said. "In my view, (the bill) accomplishes this goal following its passage in both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly with a solid majority of support."

Prior to the law, Indiana abortion providers reported treating patients coming from other states with existing abortion bans. That made international news when a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio received abortion care in Indiana.

Indianapolis OBG/YN Dr. Caitlin Bernard shared the girl's story and spoke out strongly against the bill as it made its way through the General Assembly earlier this week.

"I am deeply disturbed by the bill being considered by the Indiana legislature," Bernard said on Twitter. "I've practiced medicine for 12 years and follow a code of ethics, so I know medicine is not about exceptions. Every person deserves to have equal access to the best medical care."

The Biden administration rebuked the ban's adoption Saturday with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre describing it as "a devastating step." Earlier in the week, President Biden signed an executive order supporting individuals traveling out state for an abortion.

"It’s another radical step by Republican legislators to take away women’s reproductive rights and freedom, and put personal health care decisions in the hands of politicians rather than women and their doctors," she said. "Yesterday’s vote, which institutes a near-total abortion ban in Indiana, should be a signal to Americans across the country to make their voices heard. Congress should also act immediately to pass a law restoring the protections of Roe – the only way to secure a woman’s right to choose nationally."

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Indiana's General Assembly was among the earliest Republican-led state legislatures to debate tighter abortion laws after the Supreme Court ruling in June that removed constitutional protections for the procedure. But it is the first state to pass a ban through both chambers, after West Virginia House of Delegates members passed up the chance to move forward with that state's abortion bill in July.

Late Friday, the Indiana Senate voted 28-19 to approve the near-total ban the House had passed earlier in the day.

"It makes Indiana one of the most pro-life states in the nation," said Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville.

The bill passed the House, 62-38, on Friday afternoon. The chamber’s 71 Republicans split, with nine voting against the bill. The party has been divided on the issue with some feeling the bill goes too far in restricting abortion and others feeling it doesn’t go far enough.

McNamara carried the bill in the House. She said Friday the goal of the bill was to strengthen protections for women and babies. The majority of Republicans wanted to see a stronger bill, without exceptions for rape and incest, but most ultimately settled for what they could get passed.

"Ultimately, they're looking at the opportunity for 99% of abortions in the state of Indiana to be eliminated one way or the other," she said after the vote Friday.

No Democrats voted in favor of the bill.

Members of the Indiana House of Representatives stand for the Pledge of Allegiance before a vote is held on Senate Bills 1 and 2 during special session Friday, August 5, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.
Members of the Indiana House of Representatives stand for the Pledge of Allegiance before a vote is held on Senate Bills 1 and 2 during special session Friday, August 5, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

As the House’s soft-spoken chaplain led the chamber in an invocation to open the final day of the two-week special legislative session Friday – called to pass financial relief but co-opted to ban abortion after the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision in late June – a small but vocal contingent of abortion-rights protesters nearly drowned out her appeal to God with chants of “bans off our bodies.”

The crowd of protesters flocking to the Statehouse had shrunk considerably since the start of the abortion debate last week. A dozen or so people holding signs watched the proceedings from large windows at the back of the House chamber and another dozen or so, including several anti-abortion activists, dotted the viewing gallery.

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Likely all of them were disappointed with the bill passed Friday, which bans abortion except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies and when the life of the pregnant person is at danger.

The legislature passed the bill despite polls that indicate a majority of Hoosiers support at least some degree of abortion access.

Anti-abortion groups have opposed SB 1 because of the few cases in which it would still allow abortion. Last week, Indiana Right to Life said it "did not wait 50 years for the full reversal of Roe vs. Wade for this."

On Thursday night, the majority of Republicans in the House attempted to remove exceptions to the abortion ban in cases of rape and incest. That effort failed, as it did last week in the Senate.

Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis, is one of the chamber's most extreme abortion opponents and supported a failed effort to turn the bill into a total abortion ban, without exceptions. On the floor Friday, Jacob said he would vote against SB 1 because "it is a weak, pathetic bill that still allows babies to be murdered." Jacob lost his Republican primary race in May.

Jacob's comment incensed at least one of his fellow lawmakers.

Rep. Renee Pack, D-Indianapolis, told the chamber she had an abortion in 1990 at Fort Hood, in central Texas, while serving in the Army. Pack was married and already the mother of two children. She said she had to choose between having another child, or continuing her military career.

"After everything I've been through in my life ... it took me getting to the Statehouse for my colleagues to call me a murderer," Pack said, raising her voice. "Sir, I am not a murderer. And my sisters are not murderers, either. We are pro-choice. That is what we are ... We believe we have command over our own bodies."

In the past week, the Indianapolis business community joined a long list of organizations − including every major medical association − in opposing the legislation over fears of the economic impact such a ban will have on the state. Already, one major event has said it is "deeply troubled" by the proposal. David Hoppe, president of Gen Con, a massive annual tabletop gaming convention, said Wednesday that if the state passed SB 1, it will "make it more difficult for us to remain committed to Indiana as our long-term annual home."

Visit Indy said that conventions and major trade shows have reached out for "clarification on what's happening with the bill and how it's moving."

Several GOP lawmakers voted for the bill despite saying it wasn't perfect. Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, said she knew some would be disappointed that the bill doesn't prevent every abortion. Still, Brown said it was a good place to start.

"I know what we're doing today is just the beginning," Brown said. "Our actions today will save so many lives."

Contact IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron on email at Arika.Herron@indystar.com or on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.

Contributing: Claire Thornton, USA TODAY; Associated Press

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana abortion ban becomes law; has rape, incest, medical exceptions