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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, January 31, 2019 6:00 pm

Indiana GOP preparing abortion-rights legislation

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS -- On the heels of controversial abortion rights' laws passing in several states, Indiana Republicans are preparing to tackle their own legislation.

"I have to tell you the New York, Virginia, Rhode Island discussions here over the last week have been very disconcerting to see such a low value placed on life," said GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma. "I think it has reinvigorated those who consider themselves to be pro-life to take action. We were moving that direction anyway."

New York's governor signed a law making abortion legal, even after the unborn child is viable, so long as the doctor makes a “reasonable and good-faith judgment” that abortion will protect the pregnant woman’s health.

In Virginia a bill is under consideration that would repeal restrictions on third-trimester abortions -- making some abortions legal even at term and in the middle of birth. In Rhode Island the governor has pledged to sign legislation similar to New York's.

"I believe there has to be some point where an unborn child has constitutional rights," Bosma said. "From my perspective when someone is aborting a baby in the closing weeks of pregnancy I just can't fathom that. That puts such a low value on life."

Just four abortion-related bills were filed in the legislature this year. One is a complete ban proposed by Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, that Bosma refuses to move because it is unconstitutional.

Another was heard in the Senate this week and would allow all health care providers to refuse to participate in abortions without repercussion -- including pharmacists dispensing medication that would induce an abortion. No vote was taken.

A third is a reproductive rights bill by a Senate Democrat that has no chance in a GOP-controlled assembly.

The fourth is House Bill 1211 -- authored by Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, and Rep. Christy Stutzman, R-Middlebury. It would bar a "dismemberment abortion" unless a physician reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent serious health risks or death of the mother.

The bill defines dismemberment abortion as when "a fetus is extracted one piece at a time from the uterus through clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or another similar instrument that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slices, crushes, or grasps a portion of the fetus's body to cut or rip it off" and does not include abortion via suction.

Only 27 so-called dismemberment abortions were performed in Indiana in 2017, and they are legally termed dilation and evacuation. They were all performed in a hospital -- not an abortion clinic. 

Dilation and evacuation -- or D&E -- is generally used for second-trimester abortions. Indiana law already limits second-trimester abortions, which begin at 14 weeks, to when they are medically necessary.

Wanda Savala, government affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said Hoosiers are already going to Ohio and Illinois for these abortions and this bill makes it even harder.

That's because "medically necessary" is being narrowed to "serious health risks" requiring substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. It does not include psychological or emotional conditions, including a threat of suicide by the mother.

And Savala said graphic language is specifically used in the bill to heighten emotions.

"This is about making sure people have the time they need and deserve to make these decisions," she said.

nkelly@jg.net