Controversial House Bill 1337 has advanced to Governor Mike Pence’s desk after a 60-40 vote in the Indiana House passed it on Wednesday. The bill is a comprehensive attack on abortion that many, even some staunch anti-abortion Republicans could not vote for because it goes too far. Others object to how the bill was altered in the Senate and brought to a vote before it could be discussed.
The Associated Press reported that a Pence spokeswoman made a statement that the conservative governor is “a strong supporter of the right to life.” He is going to “give this legislation thoughtful consideration once it reaches his desk,” she said.
If the Governor, who known for his anti-abortion record, allows the bill to become state law, Indiana will become the second state after North Dakota to criminalize abortions in certain cases related to the woman’s reason for wanting to terminate her pregnancy.
Unlike other state laws which purport to protect a woman’s emotional or physical health by restricting access to legal abortion, this bill doesn’t cling to paternalism. The bill prohibits women from seeking abortion if prenatal screenings indicate the fetus has genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome or other disabilities. Also prohibited would be abortions based on the race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the fetus.
The bill stipulates that both a woman and her doctor could be penalized for “wrongful death” if a pregnancy is ended for any of the reasons above. Proponents say that this prevents discrimination in conformance with civil rights laws.
Confusingly, women do not usually give a reason for wanting an abortion; many simply do not want to have a child. Indiana is attempting to criminalize pregnant women based on their intentions and their intentions alone, yet simply not wanting to carry a fetus to term would remain an intention sanctioned by law.
“Those unborn children are Hoosiers and they have constitutional rights,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma after the vote was complete. “We’re not making a determination about women’s’ health. We are trying to protect the right of the unborn they cannot speak for themselves.”
Critics say that this would force women to endure complicated, perhaps dangerous pregnancies. The bill would violate a woman’s privacy and make women reluctant to talk to their doctors, putting them and the unborn at risk.
Women in the House, Republicans and Democrats, came out against the bill, but did not ultimately have support.
“The bill does nothing to save innocent lives. There’s no education, there’s no funding. It’s just penalties,” said Rep. Sharon Negele, an Attica Republican who last year sponsored an anti-abortion bill that would have imposed tougher restrictions for a Planned Parenthood clinic.
In addition to penalizing women and their doctors, doctors would also be required to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital which must be renewed annual. This provision was passed in other states, bringing the number of abortion clinics in Mississippi and Louisiana. In Texas a similar law is currently awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court to determine its legality.
Even the bill’s sponsor stated that he will expect lawsuits if the bill passes.
Another provision in HB 1337 is the requirement that a woman seeking abortion must both view an ultrasound and listen to the fetal heartbeat at least 18 hours before the procedure.
Rep. Sean Eberhart, a Shelbyville Republican who voted against the measure, said he had a long discussion about the bill with his wife, who is about “as pro-life as they come” and decided that he needed to speak out.
“Today is a perfect example a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women,” Eberhart said. “We need to quit pretending we know what’s best for women and their health care needs.”
HB 1337 originated as a measure about fetal tissue. After Planned Parenthood was investigated for an illegally recorded video which shows clinic workers discussing the sale of fetal tissue to scientists, many states jumped to control the handling of miscarried and aborted fetuses. The investigations that set out to prove these claims were fruitless; however, the Indiana House passed an earlier version of HB 1337 to the Senate which called for abortion clinics to cremate or bury all fetuses and made it a felony to transfer fetal tissue.
By the time the bill came back to the House, the provisions about genetic disease and other restrictions on abortion procedures had been added. Many opponents were upset that GOP House leaders called the bill for a vote without giving representatives a chance to make changes or discuss the new additions.
“It saddens me and makes me sick to my stomach to be up here right now,” Rep. Wendy McNamara, a Republican from Evansville, said during debate. “It’s bills like these that make people like me really hate the system.”