An Indiana House committee approved the Senate-passed abortion ban Tuesday, sending it to the House floor with amendments including an exception to protect the health of the mother.
In a 8-5 vote – along party lines except for Republican Cindy Ziemke of Oldenburg joining Democrats in opposition – the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee approved Senate Bill 1 after hearing over nine hours of public testimony. Over 100 people testified.
The amendment, introduced by committee chair Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, broadens the exception of saving the “life of the mother” by adding the exception for the health of the mother.
The amendment also:
– Bans abortion clinics, which accounted for 98% of abortions in 2021, allowing abortions only at hospitals, ambulatory outpatient surgical centers and birthing centers.
– Allows women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest, regardless of age, only 10 weeks to have an abortion. This is a change from the version that passed in the Senate, which allowed 12 weeks for girls younger than 16 and eight weeks for those who are older than 16.
– Removes the notarized affidavit requirement that the Senate required victims of rape or incest to provide to receive an abortion, along with a provision that would grant the attorney general the power to prosecute abortion crimes that county prosecutors refuse to. The House is instead trying to form a study committee on the issue of prosecutors who refuse to prosecute illegal abortions.
– Adds that a physician’s license must, not may, be revoked if they perform an illegal abortion.
Over 160 people signed up to testify before the committee hearing. Right before testimony began, the committee released the new amendment, leading to many having to alter their testimony on a version of the bill they were not yet familiar with.
Doctors, religious leaders, mothers, and sexual assault victims were among those who testified on both sides of the issue.
Outside the chamber, a group of pro-choice protesters could be heard throughout testimony but remaining quiet when a pro-choice speaker was at the podium.
Two pro-choice women, Kieran O’Dowd and Cecelia Poynter, both testified they had been harassed by anti-abortion advocate last week during the Senate hearings.
Mark Smith also testified in opposition to the bill, saying he “was once pro-life”, but has since learned that a woman has a right to control her own body.
“I don’t know when I learned that, but I did,” said Smith.
Smith said that the legislature is privileged, because “privilege is when you don’t think something is a problem because it doesn’t affect you.” He asked the House to look past their privilege.
“The measure of a man is what he does when he has power,” said Smith.
Addison Bell (above, holding photo), a resident of Boone County, testified that she never got to meet her aunt because the woman was a high school student who lost her life from an infection due to an unsafe abortion. Displaying her photo, Bell said her aunt was only 17 when she became pregnant and didn’t feel comfortable asking her parents for consent to have an abortion.
A majority of the healthcare providers who testified were pro-choice, but there were a few who opposed.
An OBGYN who has been in practice for 14 years, Christina Francis, testified that she wants to protect patients from elective abortions.
“I think abortion has been a band aid for a very long time”, said Francis.
Francis said abortion doesn’t address the root cause of unwanted pregnancies, urging that Indiana address “pharmaceutical deserts” and provide easily accessible birth control.
Although she is against abortion, Francis testified that she does understand situations in which healthcare providers need to intervene to save the life of the mother, but expressed concern that the wording of the legislation might create confusion among physicians as to whether an abotion is accepted under the law or not.
Stephanie Moir shared that she had an abortion in 1970, and that her decision from 52 years ago still troubles her.
Moir said she became pregnant as a young college student and was too humiliated and ashamed to tell anyone. As a result, her boyfriend at the time pushed her to see a counselor at what Moir referred to as a “pro-abortion clinic”.
Moir felt deceived, as she was told by the counselor at the clinic “it was like taking birth control pills.” Moir said they did not notify her that her baby had a heartbeat at the time of the abortion.
She says her counselor and boyfriend were both wrong because getting an abortion was not “simple, easy, smart, or right.”
The full House is scheduled to begin debate on the bill Thursday.
Zachary Roberts is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.