New amendment to abortion bill allows exception to protect health of mother

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An Indiana House committee made significant changes Tuesday to a Republican-backed bill that would ban virtually all abortions in the state.

They included an expanded exception that allows abortions up to 20 weeks post-fertilization “to prevent a substantial permanent impairment to the life or physical health” of the mother. An earlier version of the bill only allowed the procedure to prevent the death or “irreversible impairment” of the woman.

The amendment also sets a deadline of 10 weeks post-fertilization for all rape and incest survivors to be able to obtain an abortion.

Previous qualifications for those exceptions limited abortions performed in cases of rape or incest to 12 weeks for those under the age of 16, and eight weeks for anyone aged 16 or older.

The House Courts and Criminal Code committee also eliminated the notarized affidavit required victims of rape or incest to access an abortion. The Senate narrowly voted to add that requirement to the bill last week.

Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, who chairs the committee, said the amended bill clarifies that no criminal penalties are imposed on women accessing abortions, and it removes the new criminal provisions imposed on doctors. Existing criminal laws still apply, however.

The amendment was adopted unanimously by the House committee Tuesday morning before the start of public testimony. A committee vote on the final bill is expected later today.

Democrats agreed to the changes, although Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said he still has “a lot of problems” with the bill overall.

“This (amendment) fixes a lot of problems that were created in the Senate,” Pierce said. “As you can imagine, there are still a lot of problems that remain.”

The House amendment also eliminated a provision that would allow the state attorney general to take over prosecution of abortion-related cases if a local prosecutor refuses to. The language was added to the bill in the Senate last week.

Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, who authored the amendment, signaled that it was aimed at Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, who said last month that he would not prosecute abortion-related cases if the state legislature criminalized the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade opinion.

The new bill language adopted Tuesday instead creates a task force to study any instances in which local prosecutors make “blanket” refusals to prosecute certain laws. The task force is charged with making a report by Dec. 1, before the next legislative session.

The latest bill language states explicitly that the abortion ban does not apply to cases where the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly, or in vitro fertilization.

Senators debated the bill for more than three hours on Saturday before voting to advance the bill to the House during a special legislative session.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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4 thoughts on “New amendment to abortion bill allows exception to protect health of mother

  1. This is kind of funny to watch the debate. Republicans, after manipulating voters since the 70’s with the Pro-Life platform are now stuck trying to make every one happy. The people that believed the propaganda and took it to heart are screaming that anything but a total ban does not go far enough, and then there the rest of the voters that never thought this would be a issue and are going to be unhappy with a total ban.

    It was a pretty safe way to manipulate voters as long as you could always say “it’s out of my hands because the courts said so”. It is a different story now that the dog (or in this case, Christain Nationalists) have caught the car. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few election cycles.

    1. It’s pretty obvious that the abortophile wing of the Dems have overstepped their bounds long before this. It took the Virginia dust-up a few years ago (Ralph Northam openly promoting abortions five minutes before birth) to signal how far the left is willing to push things. Then it became obvious that blue states were pushing for that across the country, as we saw with the sad attempt “Save Roe” a few weeks ago: yeah, let’s make sure abortions can happen in week 33, during a lunch break. This, combined with taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood only helped galvanize (or, in your terms, “manipulate”) the religious right pro-life vote.

      It’ll be interesting seeing this play out indeed. Bodily autonomy is important and in that respect, a conservative state like Kansas (given the opportunity for a referendum) still chose to keep abortion legal. But legal does not equate to “common”. The right to bodily autonomy does not mean we should encourage bodily carelessness without individual consequences. These are far more powerful arguments than the scientific one, where the left pretends that a fetus isn’t a human and life doesn’t begin at conception. Or the arguments that this is driven by the patriarchy, given that women are a majority of the electorate, hold considerable political power even in Bible Belt states, and form the backbone of the pro-life movement. It’s best to see this as a matter of individual liberty, where, hot on the heels of years of the left overreaching, the Indiana GOP is now seriously overplaying its hand.

  2. I hope that the last part is clarified more.

    “ The latest bill language states explicitly that the abortion ban does not apply to cases where the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly, or in vitro fertilization”

    While not happy at all with such a drastic restriction on abortions, I am somewhat relieved to see this included. I would like to understand what lawmakers will define as a lethal fetal anomaly. I’m worried if left too vague, that medical providers will be reluctant to intervene.

  3. There are fetal abnormalities which may not be lethal but are severe and devastating to the child and their families. For instance, suffering multiple seizures per day may or may not be life threatening to a baby, but the constant walking on eggshells and being tethered to the cushioned surroundings and supplies of home becomes a prison for the child and their family, not to mention the devastating financial impact of multiple medications and hospitalizations, inability to find child care so that parents (especially single parents) can work to afford those expenses, and inability for parents to go to church or to their other children’s school events or to visit a relative or friend in the hospital or to a quiet dinner out or on vacation.

    Our legislature doesn’t adequately finance family help with life-long impairments such as these. Currently, we don’t have enough special ed. teachers, school nurses, or adult care facilities for those with these kinds of impairments. Even for those who qualify for Medicaid assistance, caregivers in the adult facilities we do have are barely paid more than minimum wage, causing constant staff turnover where continuation of caregivers is so important to understand and serve the multiple needs of those in their care.

    These situations are likely to worsen with legislative threats to criminalize doctors who care for those with at risk pregnancies and fetuses. Practicing with big brother government looking over their shoulders on every case will make Indiana even less attractive to medical providers. WHY do we keep doing things to encourage more brain drain from our state?

    Decisions on care and abortion in these difficult situations are never easy for families or physicians. Putting government and headline-seeking politicians in the middle of such decisions will make these decisions even more painful, expensive, and cruel.