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In epic Senate abortion bill debate, rape/incest exception proves a lightning rod

“Let me tell you, this is the great debate. People will remember what we did.”

That’s what Sen. Michael Young (above), R-Indianapolis, said while giving closing remarks Thursday night for his Amendment 58, which would get rid of the rape and incest exceptions included in Senate Bill 1. The amendment — finally voted down, 18-28 — sparked a polarizing two-hour debate that dominated Thursday’s Senate session, which continued past midnight.

The Senate was originally scheduled to convene at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. After six delays, the session finally started at 5 p.m.

The Republicans delayed the meeting so they could debate amendments to the bill within caucus. The behind-closed-doors debate led to Young officially leaving the Republican caucus earlier this week.

The session began with discussions on the 18 proposed amendments to Senate Bill 2, only one of which, concerning Medicaid reimbursement, passed. Pushing Senate Bill 3 to the end of the session, senators dove into a contentious discussion of SB 1’s 62 separate amendments on a host of different issues.

Young touched off a more than two-hour, often hostile discussion of his Amendment 58, calling for no abortion exceptions except for the life of the mother.

“The life of the mother is the exception because we believe in self-defense,” said Young.

Many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, questioned Young on this stance, asking why the senator wouldn’t make the exceptions for incest and rape. Young said he could not ask any person to give up their life, but if their life is not at risk, they should not able to have an abortion.

“Exceptions equal death for innocent unborn children,” said Young, adding later: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Many Democrats especially expressed their horror at the proposition. Sen. Rodney Pol Jr., D-Portage, called it a “massive win for rapists.”

“You are giving a rapist the ability to choose the mother of their child,” he said.

Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, said religions view the topic of abortion differently and that religion should not be used as an argument for not having a rape exception.

“I don’t think any God is pro-rape,” he said.

Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, said that although he believes in God, he could not imagine telling a woman they have to keep the baby of their rapist. He talked about his daughters and how he’d hope they would have a choice.

“You’re no closer to God than any of us who are going to vote no,” said Alting.

Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, explained her opposition to the bill very quickly.

“I think the world of you, Sen. Young, but when I read this amendment, my mouth dropped,” said Breaux. “I will just say this is an outrageous proposal fueled by the arrogance of the majority.”

Young alluded to his decision to leave the majority caucus in wrapping up the debate on his amendment.

“This is the most important issue in our lifetime,” he said. “I had to give up so much for what I believe in.”

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