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With Roe v. Wade ruling expected by year’s end, a special session might be on the way

Above: While pro-abortion-rights protesters gathered Oct. 2, 2021, in downtown Indianapolis in response to a new Texas abortion law, anti-abortion advocates assembled nearby for a counter-protest.

Over 100 Indiana lawmakers are asking Gov. Eric Holcomb to call a special session if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that states can restrict abortion in a case expected to reach a final decision before the end of the year.

In an open letter, the legislators made it clear that the intent is to restrict abortion in the state.

“As a state that recognizes that life is a precious gift that should never be neglected, it is our desire that you, as the governor of Indiana, ensure that those values are upheld without delay,” the letter said.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, could overturn parts or all of Roe v. Wade. The case deals with the costitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi state law outlawing abortion operations after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. If the Supreme Court upholds that the law is constitutional, it would be a green light to states to create restrictions surrounding abortion.

According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights organization, Indiana is classified as a state “likely to ban abortion,” surrounded by several the institute has classified as “certain to ban abortion.” Illinois is the nearest state that is expected to have legal abortion.

The Republican supermajority has previously run into issues trying to restrict abortion in the state.

In 2016, a law under then-Gov. Mike Pence stating that abortions cannot take place on the basis of sex, race or disability and requiring pregnant women to view an ultrasound and listen to a fetal heartbeat within 18 hours of a procedure was struck down by the Supreme Court.

The topic of a special session was discussed widely prior to the letter. During the 2022 legislative session, a bill that would have automatically had the legislature convene over the Supreme Court decision did not make it out of committee. The bill, Senate Bill 309, was authored by former Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem.

Some restrictions on abortion by the state have been successful. A bill outlawing coerced abortion passed during the 2022 session, authored by Rep. Joanna King, R-Middlebury. Despite the bill’s passage, abortion rights advocates aren’t content with the legislation.

Planned Parenthood released a statement on the bill, which Holcomb signed March 11. The organization said reproductive coercion does happen, but the most common form is when partners force people to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term.

“HB 1217 has nothing to do with protecting pregnant people from coercion and everything to do with endangering patient safety and access to time-sensitive essential care,” said Lisa Humes-Schulz, VP of policy and regulatory affairs for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

Since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the appointment by former U.S. President Donald Trump of Justice Amy Coney Barrett left the Court with a conservative majority, the idea that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade has been widespread.

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