Abortion rights supporters crowded the corridors of the Indiana Statehouse throughout the day as lawmakers cast their votes, some with signs that read “You can only ban safe abortions” and “Abortion is health care.” Moments after the vote, some protesters hugged and others stood stunned before the crowd erupted into chants of “We will not stop.”
In a statement released after signing the bill, Holcomb said he had “spoken clearly” after the fall Roe that he would be willing to support anti-abortion legislation. He also highlighted the “carefully negotiated” exemptions in the law, which he said address “some of the unimaginable circumstances a woman or an unborn child can face.”
Before deciding on the exemptions, Republican lawmakers disagreed on how far the law should go some GOP members who side with the Democrats in demanding that abortion be legal in cases of rape and incest.
The vote followed days of testimony from citizens and a debate that became heated at times. “Sir, I am not a murderer,” said the rep. Renee Pack (D) in the chamber, after Rep. John Jacob (R), a staunch abortion opponent who wanted exemptions for rape removed, described the procedure as murder.
Abortion rights groups quickly rebuked Friday’s decision. Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the vote “was cruel and will prove devastating to pregnant people and their families in Indiana and throughout the region.” “Hoosiers didn’t want this,” Johnson said.
In a statement, the anti-abortion group Indiana Right to Life opposed the exemptions, saying the new law does not go far enough in restricting access to abortion.
The push by Indiana Republicans to restrict access to abortion stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming support for it from voters in Kansas, where an attempt to remove abortion protections was voted down this week in another traditionally conservative state. That victory is likely to boost the Democratic Party’s hopes that The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade will energize voters ahead of the midterm elections.
In Indiana, Democratic lawmakers described the Kansas vote as a warning to their Republican colleagues to consider the potential fallout from voters.
Unlike many of its largely conservative Midwestern neighbors, Indiana did not have a “trigger law” on the books that would immediately ban abortion when Roe was overturned. Because the procedure had been legal in the state for up to 22 weeks, Indiana became the destination for many seeking to end their pregnancies.
Cutting off this “critical access point” may forcing people to travel “hundreds of miles or carry pregnancies against their will,” the American Civil Liberties Union said.
Most recently, a 10-year-old girl was a rape victim had to travel to Indianapolis for an abortion after she was denied one in her home state of Ohio. The case led to outrage among abortion rights advocates, was criticized by President Biden and attracted international attention.
The OB/GYN who provided the care, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, has been subjected to threats and harassment. Her legal team is considering filing a defamation suit against the Indiana attorney general, whose office is examine how the abortion case was handled.
Kim Bellware and Ellen Francis contributed to this report.