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Start of special session delayed to July 25, allowing additional time to prepare legislation in wake of Roe v. Wade overturning

UPDATE: Adjusting their timetable in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Indiana legislative leaders Thursday announced the special session previously set to begin July 6 will instead start on July 25.

“In light of the historic Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, legislative leaders are anticipating a multi-week special session versus one or two days,” Erin Wittern, spokesperson for the Indiana House Republicans, said in a statement released Thursday. “Due to this extended session and to minimize logistical issues, leaders worked with the governor to push the start date to July 25.”

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EARLIER: “I have been clear in stating I am pro-life. We have an opportunity to make progress in protecting the sanctity of life, and that’s exactly what we will do,” said Gov. Eric Holcomb after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, calling for the Indiana General Assembly to act on the issue in a special session already set to begin on July 6.

Hoosier lawmakers also reacted to Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended the constitutional right to abortion in a 6-3 vote almost 50 years after its establishment.

The ruling gives the states the authority to ban abortions completely.

More than a dozen states have “trigger” laws on the books and plan to immediately ban abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade while numerous other states are likely to ban the practice soon.

According to a 2019 Ball State University survey, only about 17% of  Hoosiers support a total ban on abortions.

 The ruling brought responses from members of Congress and state legislators on both sides of the aisle:

“All life is sacred. For more than 15 years, this basic principle guided my actions as a physician and continues to mold my thinking as a lawmaker,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, representing Indiana’s 8th District. “The Supreme Court’s ruling today is an important step in a decades-long fight toward protecting all life and will return the decision to the states to best reflect the views of their people.”

“The American people will now have the opportunity, through their state elected officials, to decide our laws when it comes to protecting life and protecting women,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young. “It’s now time to work on solutions that affirm the right to life and support pregnant women and mothers.”

State Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, said, “As someone who strongly believes in the sanctity of life, I regret unborn babies will continue losing their lives in states with liberal abortion laws. In Indiana, we affirm the dignity of mother and child. We must seize this opportunity to empower women and protect unborn human life. This spring, 100 Hoosier legislators wrote Gov. Holcomb calling for a special session should the Supreme Court send abortion policymaking back to the states. With this ruling, we must act immediately in the upcoming special session.”

 Democrats were unhappy.

“This is the first time in our nation’s history that we’ve taken such a huge step back on personal freedom, and I am horrified about what other dominos will fall now that women will lose their rights to this legal and safe procedure,” said Myla Eldridge, vice chair of the Indiana Democratic Party. “A woman’s right to contraception and birth control will be the next issue up for debate, and I fear the Indiana Republican Party will continue their crusade of violating the privacy rights of Hoosiers because [they] have repeatedly shown us they believe a Hoosier’s personal life should be subjected for approval by politicians—not doctors or medical professionals.”

“Outlawing abortion won’t stop abortion, it will only make it less safe,” said state Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie. “I have advocated for increased access to contraceptives and requiring medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual education at the Statehouse. But the Republican legislators who want to ban abortion have not taken a single step to advance those policies, which we know have the power to reduce abortion rates the most.”

“Indiana already has the third highest rate of maternal mortality in the nation,” said Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, floor leader for House Democrats. “Hoosier women cannot afford any legislation that puts them at a greater risk of dying due to pregnancy. Instead of working to restrict abortions in the state, the legislature ought to be striving to support existing pregnant women and infants.” — Ryus Moore

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EARLIER: The Indiana General Assembly will meet for a special session called by Gov. Eric Holcomb beginning July 6.

Holcomb announced the session on Wednesday and called for legislation that would increase the automatic tax refund to Hoosiers in response to rising inflation.

“This is the fastest, fairest and most efficient way to return taxpayers’ hard-earned money during a time of economic strain,” Holcomb said in a statement. “Indiana’s economy is growing, and with more than $1 billion of revenue over current projections, Hoosier taxpayers deserve to have their money responsibly returned. I’m happy to be able to take this first step and look forward to signing this plan into law as soon as possible.”

Holcomb’s plan would give each taxpayer around $225. This would be on top of the $125 they will receive because of the automatic tax refund.

The Indiana Republican Party and House Speaker Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, came out in support of the special session.

“Our goal is to take action to provide inflation relief to Hoosier taxpayers as our state and nation continue to see the price of gas and everyday goods and services climb to record heights,” a statement from Hutson read. “The state’s strong fiscal health positions us to responsibly use the state’s reserves to quickly return money back to taxpayers.”

Across the aisle, Democrats panned the plan, saying it won’t do enough.

“Gas taxes and prices are at their highest ever. Giving people a break from 18 cents per gallon at the federal level is great. But surely Indiana can do better than Washington. If we suspend the state gas taxes, we’ll triple the savings for Hoosiers,” Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said. “It doesn’t hurt that suspending the gas tax keeps all the benefits here, unlike the automatic tax refund. Why send more of our hard-earned money to Washington in the form of taxes on a refund rather than keeping all the savings in Hoosiers’ pockets?”

Rep. Gregory Porter, D-Indianapolis, is asking Holcomb and Republican leadership to expand who the money goes back to.

“Every Hoosier, regardless of tax status, is paying sales tax and feeling the brunt of heightened prices at the grocery store and gas pump right now. By agreeing to return for a special session to give Hoosiers their money back, we’ve already acknowledged this,” Porter said. “So let’s make good on that by including residents on disability, Social Security and SSI on this $225 payment.”

The Supreme Court will have ruled on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization by July, and if it returns the issue of abortion to the states, Indiana Republicans may take advantage of the special session to pass legislation concerning the issue.

Earlier in June, when first proposing the plan, Holcomb said other issues could be tackled during the special session but did not specifically mention abortion.

The Indiana Democratic Party put forward the idea that abortion will be featured during the session, releasing a statement on Wednesday that mentioned the issue.

“The Indiana Republican Party will hold a special session to issue a one-time check that doesn’t address the state’s high gas taxes and ban a woman’s right to legal and safe abortions,” spokesman Drew Anderson said. “As seen from last weekend, the Indiana GOP has become the party of extremists who care more about their national agenda than delivering a better future for Hoosier families.” — Jack Sells