Indiana Legislature Calls Special Session to Consider Abortion Ban

An Indiana General Assembly special committee met for more than four hours Monday to discuss Senate Bill 1, which would ban abortion unless the procedure was necessary to prevent “significant lasting harm” to the mother’s life. Republicans control the state legislature.

The bill drafted by the GOP would also prohibit abortion clinics from performing surgical abortions and would require personal dispensation from an abortion-inducing drug used in a drug abortion. It would include exceptions in cases of rape or incest, as long as the pregnant person provides the doctor with an affidavit proving the rape or incest.

The meeting of the state’s Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee contained an extensive public debate, with dozens of individuals, from physicians to faith leaders to private individuals, expressing their views on the bill. While some opposed the legislation because of its restrictions on abortion, others opposed what they described as vague language and the proposed exceptions in the measure.

While many states across the country are reviewing their laws in the wake of last month’s Supreme Court ruling, special attention has been paid to Indiana after a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio crossed state lines to have an abortion. . Indiana currently allows abortion up to 20 weeks after conception (or 22 weeks after the mother’s last menstrual period).
And last week, the Supreme Court cleared the way for Indiana to try to implement a law blocked by lower courts that restricts access to abortion for minors.
Republican leaders of the state Senate have said they hope to have a final vote on SB1 by Friday before sending it to the state house for consideration. If passed, the bill would come into effect on September 1.

Speaking before the committee on Monday, several speakers invoked their faith and one woman expressed her opposition to the bill, citing her fertility struggle.

Ariel Ream called the proposed legislation “horrible” and said it would likely affect her ability to have a baby as she is at very high risk of stillbirth or miscarriage.

“Who gets to decide when my life is really at stake? Who gets to decide when the fetal abnormalities are deadly enough?” asked Ream. “When is the limit enough and how many women are allowed to die before it is drawn?”

dr. Mary Ott, a pediatrician, told lawmakers she opposed the bill because “access to safe and legal abortion is an essential part of … reproductive health care.”

“Abortion bans threaten the health and well-being of Indiana’s youth, impacting physical, mental health, education and economic outcomes, including higher maternal mortality among adolescents,” Ott said, adding that the proposed legislation politicizes what should be a private decision and will widen health disparities between people of color.

Meanwhile, said Dr. Tyler Johnson, who is a state Senate candidate, said he supported the bill’s intent but argued it could be manipulated as written because of what he called “vague” wording.

“I ask that we remove or refine the language of exception, protect all unborn children and impose appropriate criminal sanctions for intentionally and unnecessarily taking the life of an unborn child,” he said.

While Indiana is currently the only state to hold a special session to consider restrictive abortion laws in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, a few other states are planning or have opened the door to potentially returning for a special legislature. seat. New York and Wisconsin have already held special sessions discussing abortion-related legislation.

Democratic focus

Abortion rights have become a focal point among Democrats ahead of the 2022 midterm elections in November.
Vice President Kamala Harris held a roundtable with state lawmakers in Indianapolis on Monday, telling them that the court’s decision “included a constitutional right recognized by the people of America — the women of America” ​​and emphasized how the court’s decision may jeopardize other established rights.

The vice president did not answer questions from the press about whether she would support President Joe Biden in declaring a national or public health emergency over the matter, which members of Congress and reproductive rights groups have urged, but Biden has not yet moved. to do this .

The trip was Harris’ last in a series of stops across the country focused on reproductive rights following the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal the federal right to abortion.

Meeting with lawmakers in Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday, Harris pledged the Biden administration’s support for the protection of abortion rights, while also hitting Republican administration Glenn Youngkin for pledging to sign an anti-abortion bill into law.

“The governor of Virginia, I’ve read, says he will ‘gleefully’ cite a law to take away reproductive rights. So I’d also like to make it clear that I’m fully aware of the context in which we meet, in terms of what this will mean for the people of Virginia,” Harris told a group of state representatives on Saturday. “And what is directly at stake in this state, in terms of their rights, and their rights in particular when it comes to a governor who is apparently willing to limit and even ban abortion based on an interpretation of the words he spoke.”

Elsewhere, Kansas will allow voters to debate the issue during the primary on Aug. 2, making it the first state to vote on a constitutional amendment related to abortion, which is currently legal until 20 weeks after conception (or 22 weeks after conception). the mother’s last menstrual period). It is also one of several states that people from Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri travel to for abortion services.

This headline and story were updated Monday with additional details.

CNN’s Paul LeBlanc, Rebekah Riess and Devan Cole contributed to this report.

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