Indiana’s almost total ban on abortion is now in the hands of Governor Eric Holcomb.
Late Friday, the Indiana Senate voted 28-19 to accept Senate Bill 1, which was passed by the House earlier in the day — making the legislature the first in the country to vote to restrict abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door by overturned Roe v. Vade in June.
“That makes Indiana one of the most pro-life states in the nation,” said Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville.
The governor has not commented on the specifics of SB 1, but has said he is “pro-life” and urged lawmakers to address the issue during the special session.
“We have an opportunity to make progress in protecting the sanctity of life, and that’s exactly what we will do,” he said in a tweet after the Supreme Court decision
The bill passed the House, 62-38 Friday afternoon. The House’s 71 Republicans were divided on the issue, 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 that the goal of the bill was to strengthen protections for women and babies. The majority of Republicans wanted to see a stronger bill without exemptions for rape and incest, but most ultimately settled for what they could get passed.
“At the end of the day, they’re looking at the possibility that 99% of abortions in the state of Indiana can be eliminated one way or another,” she said after the vote Friday.
No Democrats voted in favor of the bill.
Friday’s late-night vote capped two dramatic weeks in the Indiana Statehouse, ending a 13-hour marathon of debate on the controversial measure.
As the House’s soft-spoken pastor led the chamber in a call to open the final day of the special legislative session — called to pass economic relief but aligned to ban abortion after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in late June — a small, but a vociferous contingent of pro-abortion protesters nearly drowned out her appeal to God with cries of “ban from our bodies.”
The number of protesters who flocked to the Statehouse had shrunk significantly 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, fanned out in the gallery.
They were probably all disappointed by the bill passed on Friday, which bans abortion except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies and when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.
Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Hoosiers support at least some degree of access to abortion.
Anti-abortion groups have consistently opposed SB 1 because of the few cases in which it would still allow abortion. Last week, Indiana Right to Life said it “didn’t wait 50 years for the full reversal of Roe vs. Wade for this.”
Thursday evening, the majority of Republicans in Parliament tried to remove exceptions from 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 anti-abortion opponents and supported a failed effort to make the bill a total abortion ban with no exceptions. On the floor Friday, Jacob said he would vote against SB 1 because “it’s a weak, pathetic bill that still allows babies to be murdered.” Jacob lost his Republican primary race in May.
Jacobs’ comment outraged at least one of his fellow lawmakers.
Rep. Renee Pack, D-Indianapolis, told the chamber she had a miscarriage 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 coming to the statehouse for my colleagues to call me a murderer,” Pack said, raising his voice. “Sir, I’m not a murderer. And my sisters aren’t murderers either. We’re pro-choice. That’s what we are.
“We think we are in command of our own bodies.”
It was not only amendments to make the bill more stringent that were voted down. Lawmakers also rejected an amendment that would have allowed abortions due to rape or incest up to 20 weeks after conception instead of 10, as is currently in the bill. Nine Republicans joined the chamber’s 29 Democrats in voting for that extension — one of many illustrations of the rift that has fractured the majority caucus over the past two weeks and made passage of the bill a delicate needle to thread.
The struggle for the Republican Party is perhaps best described by Rep. Ann Vermilion, R-Marion, who reminded the chamber of her GOP bona fides — limited government, fiscally conservative, Friday night lights, Sunday church — before admitting how the past two weeks have challenged her beliefs.
It is not uncommon, during prolonged debates, for lawmakers to walk around and chat outside the chamber. However, Vermilion’s speech seemed to catch on with her colleagues. Several representatives wiped away tears as they sat in their seats, and a few people wept openly in the wings.
After choking back her emotions, Vermilion said she has struggled to juxtapose her party’s and religion’s “pro-life” platform — principles so central to her identity — with her own “pro-woman, pro-choice” sentiments. Emotions, she said, that three-quarters of her colleagues, who are men, cannot understand.
“The last two weeks have changed me profoundly,” Vermilion said. “I have moved in my ideology in ways I never imagined.”
She said that despite her strong Christian faith, religious ideology has no place in the legislative process. She said she supports protecting life when a fetus can be viable outside the womb, but is also a “pro-woman, pro-choice Republican” and cannot support the zero-week abortion ban in the bill. She said she believes there are many Republican women who hold the same middle ground.
Democrats have derided the bill as one that is cruel, dangerous and will result in “forced pregnancy.”
“Government should not be making health care decisions for women,” said Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis. “The decision to have an abortion is extremely personal, one that should be left to a woman and her doctor.”
In the past week, business community in Indianapolis joined a host of organizations — including every major medical association — in opposing the legislation because of fears about the financial impact such a ban would have on the state. One major event has already said it is “deeply disturbed” by the proposal. Gen Con’s president, David Hoppe, said Wednesday that if the state passed SB 1, it would “make it more difficult for us to remain committed to Indiana as our long-term annual home.”
Visit Indy said conventions and major trade shows have reached out to “clarify what’s happening with the bill and how it’s moving.”
The House made several changes to the bill that started in the Senate, including:
- Final licenses for abortion clinics that require both medical and surgical abortion procedures to be performed in hospitals or hospital-owned ambulatory surgery centers.
- Removing new criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions.
- Nixing a provision that allowed the attorney general to prosecute abortion and other crimes in counties where a prosecutor refuses to prosecute. Instead, the House added the creation of a task force to investigate cases where prosecutors “a general refusal” to enforce certain laws.
Last week, the Senate passed the bill by the slimmest of margins. Several senators said they voted for the bill only to keep it moving through the legislative process. They had hoped that Parliament would tighten the exemptions that would continue to allow abortion.
However, Parliament has probably expanded the exceptions – albeit gradually. The Senate had written an exception for abortion in cases where the pregnant woman’s life was in danger. The House amended it to include “permanent impairment” of physical health beyond the pregnant woman’s life. The House also removed language supported by senators to require rape and incest victims to get a notarized statement stating the reason for their abortion.
The Senate would have given girls 15 and younger 12 weeks to get an abortion, while it would have allowed only eight weeks for women and girls at least 16 years old. The House version allows 10 weeks for all rape and incest victims.
Late Friday night, Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, said she was OK with those changes and urged her colleagues on the floor to join the House version.
Late. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, who voted against the Senate version of the bill because he didn’t think it was strong enough, said the bill sent back by the House was worse. He urged his colleagues to vote against the agreement and continue work on the bill.
After the vote at almost 22.00 The abortion law now goes to the governor. If Holcomb signs, the law will take effect on September 15.
If he vetoes it, lawmakers can override him with a simple majority in each chamber.