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After Senate concurrence Friday night, Holcomb signs abortion bill into law

With a vote Friday night in the Indiana Senate, a bill banning abortion with only a few narrow exceptions cleared its final legislative hurdle. Less than an hour later, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Enrolled Act 1 into law, making Indiana the first state to change its abortion laws since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“Following the overturning of Roe, I stated clearly that I would be willing to support legislation that made progress in protecting life,” Holcomb said in a statement from his office. “In my view, SEA 1 accomplishes this goal following its passage in both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly with a solid majority of support.”

The 28-19 vote by the Senate was to concur with amendments to the bill – passed by the Senate 26-20 on July 30 – approved in the Indiana House this week. The bill is a total ban on abortions in Indiana with exceptions only for rape, incest, to save the life of the mother and – as the result of a House amendment – in the event of serious health risks to the mother. The new law takes effect Sept. 15.

Pro-choice protesters could be heard from inside the Senate chamber Friday night..

The bill author, Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, said she had been asked why she and other Republicans rushed to get this issue legislated. 

“In 2021, 8,400 lives were lost to abortion,” said Glick.

Glick acknowledged that abortions will still happen illegally, but the bill is a step in the right direction to lower that number. 

Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, supported the bill, but said it isn’t where she or many other Republicans want yet. 

“I know some of my colleagues here have been warriors for these babies, and women, are disappointed. Because we won’t save every baby from an untimely death,” said Brown. “I too am heartbroken, because we all believe that every life matters. But I know that what we are doing today is just the beginning, and our actions today will save so many lives.”

Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, changed his vote from yes in its Senate passage to no on the concurrence, saying that he had realized the bill did not provide protections for the mentally handicapped. Bohachek has a daughter with Down Syndrome.

“This bill offers no protection for them… and unfortunately they are assaulted at 10 times the rate that everybody else is. The underreporting is almost 85%…

“And I’m pro-life, I am… but this concurrence misses this opportunity to be able to address this… My daughter is 21 years old. If she lost her favorite stuffed animal, she’d need to be consoled. So imagine her carrying a child to term… I…,” said Bohacek emotionally before exiting the chamber.

Sen. Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, also had many criticisms of the bill, including that it was rushed, was an attack on women, and could result in future rights being taken away..

“It’s not our fault what the Supreme Court did, but it is our fault if we push this through,” said Taylor.

Earlier Friday, the House passed the bill in a 62-38 vote, with nine Republicans breaking from the House supermajority to join all Democrats in opposition.

In her closing remarks before the bill’s passage, Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, the House sponsor of the bill, expressed gratitude to members of the chamber on both sides of the issue.

“There’s been utmost respect given to everyone on both sides,” said McNamara.

The bill, she added, helps both families and the unborn.

“This bill restores faith … that human life has value,” said McNamara

Although all 29 House Democrats voted no, there were Republicans on both sides of the issue.

Rep. Ann Vermilion, R-Marion, opposed the bill, saying the bill had been rushed and not given “fruitful discussion”. Vermilion said she realizes she can be pro-life, pro-women and pro-choice all at the same time.

“The last two weeks have changed me profoundly,’’ she said. “I have moved my ideology in ways I couldn’t imagine.”

Vermilion said as a Republican, she believes in limited government.

“I am a proud Republican,” said Vermilion. “No government should take away a woman’s ability for safe medical care.”

Vermilion also said the process has been very hard on her and the other lawmakers, who have likely cried, lost sleep, and had knots in their stomachs the past few weeks. 

“I believe in the sanctity of life and I am a Christian,” said Vermilion. “Those that persecute me for this middle ground that most Republican women are on, I say I’ll see you in heaven.”

Rep. John Jacob (above, center), R-Indianapolis, also opposed the bill, but for a very different reason – because he opposed the exceptions it allowed.

“Pro-life means for life. Not just some lives, that means all lives,” said Jacob. “If you say you are pro-life, you would be for all lives … 

“It (SB 1) is a weak pathetic bill that still allows babies to be murdered.”

After Jacob referred to women who have had an abortion as murderers, Rep. Renee Pack, D-Indianapolis, shared she had an abortion 30 years ago so she could continue her career in the U.S. Army.

“Sir, I am not a murderer, and my sisters are not murderers either,” said Pack, addressing Jacob.

“This is not necessarily a partisan issue. It really is not. Because outside of the Statehouse, it is bipartisan. And I’ll tell you why,” said Pack. “You have daughters, granddaughters, wives, sisters, girlfriends, mistresses, that have all had abortions, whether they be Democrat or Republican.

Also Friday, the House passed and the Senate concurred on Senate Bill 2, which Holcomb has indicated that he plans to sign into law. The bill uses $1 billion in federal reserves to give taxpayers a $200 refund check, repeals the tax on baby diapers, and provides $74 million to support programs to help mothers and families as a result of the abortion ban. It also caps the gasoline tax at $0.295 per gallon, puts $1 billion towards the Pension Stabilization Fund, and deals with other fiscal matters. 

 Zachary Roberts is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.