Indiana passes restrictive abortion laws, causing economic fallout

Written by Javed Iqbal


Indiana’s new sweeping ban on abortion had immediate political and economic fallout Saturday as some of the state’s largest employers protested the restrictions, Democratic leaders strategized to change or repeal the law and abortion rights activists planned to arrange alternative placements for women who seek it. procedures.

The Indiana law, which Republicans controlled the state legislature passed late Friday night and Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed moments later, was the first state ban enacted since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June and was celebrated as a major victory by abortion foes.

It also happened just three days after voters in traditionally conservative Kansas surprised the political world with take a completely different tack, rejection of a ballot measure it would have removed the protection of abortion rights from the state constitution.

The vote in Indiana capped weeks of fraught debate in Indianapolis, with activists demonstrating at the state capitol and waging intense lobbying campaigns while Republican lawmakers debated how far the law should go to restrict abortion. Some abortion foes hailed the law’s passage as a road map for conservatives in other states who pushed similar bans in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roewhich over the past 50 years had guaranteed the right to abortion care.

The Indiana ban, which takes effect on September 15, allows abortion only in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality or when the procedure is necessary to prevent serious health risks or death. Indiana joins nine other states that have abortion bans from conception.

The new law represents a victory for anti-abortion forces, which have worked for decades to stop the procedure. But the transition came after disagreements among some abortion foes, some of whom believed the bill did not go far enough to stop the procedure.

After the legislation was signed into law, Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant and one of the state’s largest employers, warned that such laws would hurt its recruiting efforts and said the company would look elsewhere for its expansion plans.

“We are concerned that this law will hinder Lilly’s — and Indiana’s — ability to attract diverse scientific engineering and business talent from around the world,” the company said in a statement issued Saturday. “With this new law, we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside of our home state.”

See where abortion legislation has changed

Salesforce, the tech giant with 2,300 employees in Indiana, had previously offered it move employees in states with abortion restrictions, though it did not respond Saturday to a request for comment on the Indiana law.

The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce also warned that the ban was passed too quickly and without consideration of how it will affect the state’s tourism industry.

“Such an expedited legislative process — rushing to advance state policy on broad, complex issues — is at best harmful to Hoosiers and at worst reckless,” the chamber said in a statement, asking, “Will the Indy region continue to to attract tourism and convention investment?”

Indiana lost 12 conventions and an estimated $60 million in business after it passed a religious freedom law in 2015, according to a estimate for the local tourism industry.

Indiana is the first state to ban abortion by legislature since the Supreme Court’s June ruling overturned it Roe v. Wade. Other states passed “trigger laws” that went into effect with the fall Roe.

Indiana may just be the beginning. Abortion rights advocates estimate that abortion could be severely restricted or banned in as many as half of the 50 states.

An official with Indiana Right to Life, an anti-abortion group in Indiana, said the new law will end 95 percent of abortions in Indiana and will close all abortion clinics in Indiana” Sept. 15, the date the legislation takes effect, unless abortion activists go to court and get an injunction beforehand.

Indiana has considered abortion restrictions for years, though it remained a state where many in the region traveled for abortion care. Now, with many nearby states — including Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia — also pushing for abortion bans, patients may have to travel hundreds of miles for care in some cases, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy expert at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. “Patients in Ohio won’t be able to go to Indiana for access. They might have to come to Illinois or Michigan,” she said.

The adoption of the Indiana measure came just weeks after national attention was focused on a 10-year-old girl who was raped in Ohio, where abortion is prohibited after six weeks, and traveled to Indiana to terminate the pregnancy.

Caitlin Bernard, the doctor who performed that abortion in Indianapolis, tweeted Saturday that she was “devastated” by the lawmaker’s action. “How many girls and women will be hurt before they realize this needs to be reversed? I will continue to fight for them with every fiber of my being,” she wrote.

Doctors are reluctant to work in anti-abortion states

The Indiana measure drew swift condemnation from national Democrats who sought to cast Republicans as extreme on abortion — citing the Kansas vote earlier this week in which even rural, conservative parts of the state rejected changing the state’s constitutional right to an abortion.

The law is “another radical step by Republican lawmakers to take away women’s reproductive rights and freedom,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

However, Democrats are hopeful that they can use what happened in Indiana to condemn the entire Republican Party as extreme on abortion.

“This has nothing to do with being ‘pro-life,'” tweeted California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). “It’s about power and control.”

In Washington, Republican leaders have been largely silent on the push by Republican-led states to ban abortion. Polls show consistently that near-total abortion bans like the one in Indiana are unpopular with the general public.

So when Indiana Republicans ban abortion for an entire state, “they actually speak for all Republicans,” said Martha McKenna, a Democratic political strategist, “and that’s why I hope it’s a good issue for Democrats in November.”

Another political strategist, Jonathan Levy, who worked on the Kansans For Constitutional Freedom Campaign, which opposes restricting abortion rights, said the Kansas vote showed that extreme anti-abortion positions “will be rejected by Americans across the political spectrum. The U.S. people want lawmakers to focus on how to keep food on the table, keep the economy afloat. They think the Legislature’s priorities are out of whack,” he said.

Along with the near-total abortion ban, Indiana Republicans also passed legislation they said was intended to support pregnant women and mothers, but critics pointed out that much of the money went to support pregnancy crisis centers run by anti-abortion groups.

The passage of the bill left health care providers and abortion counseling agencies scrambling to figure out the full impact of the legislation.

Indiana University Health, a major health care provider in the state, issued a statement saying it was trying to figure out what the ban meant for its doctors and patients.

“We will take the next few weeks to fully understand the terms of the new law and how we can incorporate changes into our medical practices to protect our providers and care for people seeking reproductive health,” the health care provider said in a statement.

Meanwhile, activists began discussing plans to raise funds and provide transportation to those seeking access to abortion after the ban goes into effect, said Carol McCord, a former Planned Parenthood employee.

“Since this will soon be illegal in Indiana, we are looking for ways to help women travel to get the services they need,” she said. The Indiana law was already considered restrictive compared to other states, so about 35 percent of women seeking abortions already traveled out of state, said Jessica Marchbank, who serves as state program manager for the All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center in Bloomington.

Democratic state lawmakers began strategizing Saturday on how to respond, including considering repeal measures and organizing voters to elect lawmakers who support abortion rights.

“This is a dark time for Indiana,” said state Sen. Shelli Yoder, an assistant chairwoman of the Democratic caucus. “The plan going forward is to make sure we come out in November and vote out the people who supported something that only a small minority of Hoosiers wanted.”

Immediately, Yoder said in an interview that she and like-minded state lawmakers are considering action that could undo the effect of the new law, noting that the legislature has not been formally adjourned.

“We can come back and fix this,” she said, adding that lawmakers are in the early stages of planning how to do that.

Katie Blair, director of advocacy and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union in Indiana, said Saturday that her organization will investigate the lawsuit.

“You can be assured that our legal team will work with partners to evaluate all available legal options to defend access to abortion here in Indiana,” Blair said in a statement.

In signing the legislation, Holcomb applauded the work of lawmakers he had called into special session this summer to find a way to limit abortion, acknowledging differences among those opposed to abortion.

“These actions followed long days of hearings filled with sober and personal testimony from citizens and elected officials on this emotional and complex issue,” the governor said in a statement. “Ultimately, these voices shaped and informed the final content of the legislation and its carefully negotiated exceptions to address some of the unimaginable circumstances a woman or unborn child may face.”

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Javed Iqbal

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