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Indiana Senate passes abortion ban by a 1-vote margin

 Senate Bill 1, a ban on abortion with exceptions only for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother, was passed by the Indiana Senate Saturday by the narrowest margin possible – one vote.

The bill, passed 26-20 and with 10 of the Senate’s Republicans supermajority voting against it, would provide one of the nation’s strongest bans on abortion. The unusual Saturday session drew hundreds of protesters just outside the Senate chamber.

“This is where we are in Indiana today,” said Sen. Sue Glick R-LaGrange. “We can hear many from the hallway who disagree, but also many who think we don’t go far enough.”

Glick said it is a “vehicle bill” – a reference to legislation that is expected to change through later amendment – that is not perfect, but is to a point where she can live with it. The bill now heads to the Indiana House, which is scheduled to begin debate on Monday.

“The language of this bill is a continuous process,’’ Glick said. “It’s a start and I believe it’s a step in the right direction.”

Sen.  J.D. Ford D-Indianapolis, questions Sen. Sue Glick R-LaGrange about Senate Bill 1.

Photo by Zachary Roberts, TheStatehouseFile.com.

Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, questioned Glick about the bill, asking if she thinks it’s possible to ever reach a total ban of abortions.

“We’re trying to hit an area or a place we can live with. We can protect as many people as possible,” said Glick. “What we’re trying to do is protect everyone in the course of this whole procedure.”

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said, “I’m here to tell you it is a forced pregnancy bill.”

Glick and Lanane went back and forth about whether the bill forces a woman to remain pregnant.

“Responsibility comes in at some point,” said Glick. “Society has to step in at some point and time.”

Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, asked why Glick only made the three exceptions.

“I can’t open up for abortion-on-demand,” said Glick. “I’m an old lady and have lots of reasons for believing the way I do. You asked me what’s non-negotiable, and that’s one that’s non-negotiable.”

Melton followed up by asking why she wouldn’t open up the bill to religious exemptions.

“Religious exemptions can be a sliding scale. It’s hard to determine what is a sincere religious belief,” said Glick.

“I never thought when I joined the General Assembly that I would be responsible for a bill that hurts people,” said Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis.

At legislative leaders’ urging, Gov. Eric Holcomb called the special legislative session to address Indiana’s abortion laws and other matters in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Breaux said she felt her caucus was not fairly heard, and their amendments were not given the fair consideration that a democratic system should provide.

“The outcome of today’s vote was well known at the start of this special session,” said Breaux. “Roe was enacted using democratic empowering principles. It gave women a choice.”

Breaux predicted that the bill will be difficult for medical professionals to understand clearly, and the state will lose valuable medical professionals as a result.

“There are some in this chamber who will rejoice about what we are doing today. I however bow my head in shame and sorrow,” said Breaux.

Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, was one of the Republicans who voted no, “not because I agree with the other side,” but because the bill doesn’t go far enough.

One of Young’s criticisms of the bill was that if a doctor believes the life of the mother is in danger, they can perform an abortion without telling her. He thinks it is important that the woman at least knows her life is in danger.

Young said he has no animosity toward anyone for how they vote on this issue.

“I know this is the toughest decision that any of us are going to make in our lives,” said Young. “Whatever happens today, everybody’s still my friend. Whether they’re with me or not with me, because that’s your right. Not just as a member of the Senate but as a citizen of Indiana.”

Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, also voted no on the bill, also because he felt it didn’t go far enough in banning abortion.

“My no vote, don’t get me mixed up with that (Democrats), we’re light years apart.”

Tomes added he was upset because he thought this issue was about the babies, not arguing for women.

“You don’t speak for all women. There’s a lot of women in this state who support the pro-life movement,” said Tomes.

Sen. Gary Byrne, R-Byrneville, also thought the bill didn’t go far enough, but said he would vote for it – in opposition to the protesters at the Statehouse.

“When I walked in here today, I was planning on voting no on this,” said Byrne. “But thanks to the folks out in the outside of this building that sort of convinced me to vote yes for this.”

Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, said he did not like the bill, but would vote for it to advance discussion. He shared he has a daughter with Down Syndrome who turns 21 Sunday. He said her condition puts her at 10 times the usual risk of being sexually assaulted, and as her father he would not know until well after eight weeks if his daughter were to be assaulted – so he struggles with parts of the bill such as the eight-week time limit to have an abortion as a result of a rape.

Sen. Kyle Walker, R-Lawrence, was another Republican who voted no on the bill. He said for some it is a black and white issue, but for him and many others, it is not.

“Many of us live in kind of a gray area. If you are in the gray area, you are forced to reconcile in your own mind where your own limits are.”

Walker added that he wants exceptions not only for the life of the mother, but the health of the mother as well. He also thinks requiring a victim to have a notarized affidavit in cases of rape or incest is wrong.

Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, said she could not vote for the bill because of her Republican values.

“I am a Republican because of my strong belief in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the obligation of government to serve, protect, and meet the needs of the people in my district, as well as in our entire state.”

Becker also cited committee testimony from 61 people in opposition. She said it is wrong to remove an important form of healthcare from 52% of Hoosiers.

She also explained how much training, schooling, and experience it takes to specialize as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. Becker added that there are only approximately 25 maternal-fetal medicine specialists in the state of Indiana, and there will be even less if the bill becomes law.

“Yet here we sit, 50 senators, only 8 women and 42 men, unqualified by arrogantly dictating the work of decisions,” said Becker. “Shame on us for doing this.”

Although a Democrat, Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, shared that he used to work in a Republican state administration.

“What happened to the Republican Party that I appreciate and respected?” said Qaddoura.

Qaddoura said he once believed Republicans were against government overreach, preferring small government, civil liberties and freedoms. He then asked if his fellow Senators had forgotten what principles the nation was founded on.

“Our 1st amendment clearly said we should not advance any faith or oppress any faith,” said Qaddoura. “It happens that I am an American Muslim. If I was in control, I don’t think any of you would appreciate that I shove down your throat my religious faith or beliefs.”

Qaddoura shared his fears of forgetting this history.

“No matter what I say, no matter what arguments I make, I don’t think I will change your votes. But history will remember,” said Qaddoura. “I’m in pain. I’m sad for the state of Indiana today. I’m sad that 50 years of precedent in Indiana can be turned in less than two weeks.”

Although Qaddoura assumed the bill was going to pass, he said he was proud to oppose the bill.

“I’m honored here to stand with Hoosier women every single day of the year. This bill sends a message to Indiana that we do not trust women. This bill sends a message that women are heartless and pulling babies out of their wombs at 39 weeks.”

Ford also shared his frustrations with the rest of the Senate.

“What are we doing here? We are taking away a set of law, constitutional rights from people in our state. Senator Lanane is right. We are here under the guise of economic relief,” said Ford.

Ford then spoke about the bill going against “pro-life” and Republican beliefs.

“I’m hearing this is blatant government overreach,” said Ford. “We’ve got to enact pro-life policies and we rejected a lot of those this week.”

Ford said he wants the Senate to show it is “pro-life” by investing in education, expanding Medicaid, healthcare options, and other programs that would help families and mothers. Ford also said the bill is an “attack on religious freedom,” as the Jewish population in his district have told him. Although they oppose the bill for extremely different reasons, Ford thanked Young for his criticisms of the affidavit requirement.

“It’s insulting for survivors of sexual violence who are at a very traumatic point in their life. For them to have to complete that and get it notarized. It’s insulting. It’s cruel,” said Ford. “Let’s get government out of these decisions.”

Ford emphasized that the governor called the Indiana General Assembly back for the special session, but that does not require the Senate to pass the bill.

“Let’s just scrap it. Let’s go home. No one wants to be here.”

Ford ended his remarks by reading the messages he had been mailed by his constituents, so their voices could be heard. These stories included people saying they had chosen to attend college or move to different states as a result of this bill, and that businesses would suffer losing out on talent and tourism dollars.

“Two days of testimony was not enough. Not enough for one of the most monumental decisions for our state to make.”

Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, said he struggled with his decision as a man of faith, but eventually came to the conclusion he could not impose his will on any person.

“I’m at peace with the realization that pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion,” said Niezgodski. “They did not elect me to impose my religious beliefs on others.”

Niezgodski clarified he doesn’t like abortion, but does not think that gives him the right to legislate others’ free-will.

“I don’t want women to have abortions. I also don’t want women to bear the babies of rapists or those who perpetrate the acts of incest,” said Niezgodski. “I will not risk posing the possibility of pain and suffering in another person’s life when I know nothing at all about that person or their circumstances.”

Also Saturday, Senate Bill 3, a bill intended to provide inflation relief measures through a cap on the gas tax and the refund of $1 billion in reserves to Hoosier taxpayers, was passed much more quickly in a 40-4 vote.

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