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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE: Participants walk down Berry Street during the 44th annual March for Life rally last January. The event protests the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

Thursday, February 14, 2019 1:00 am

General Assembly

Bill aims to outlaw form of abortion

Restricts use of clamps, scissors

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Second-trimester abortions would be limited under a bill heard by legislators Wednesday – the latest in an ongoing effort by Republicans to restrict abortion in the state.

House Bill 1211 would make it illegal for doctors to use instruments such as clamps, forceps and scissors to remove a fetus from the womb unless there is “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” to the woman.

The bill calls this a “dismemberment abortion” and language was used repeatedly Wednesday about babies being torn limb from limb. Medically, the procedure is called a dilation and extraction. They are rare in Indiana and must be done in a hospital setting. Just 27 were performed in 2017.

“Some people thought abortion is a tidy little procedure like getting a shot or tooth pulled. That is not the case,” said Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, the author of the bill. “This is a brutal procedure and should be banned.”

About 10 states have similar statutes but legal challenges have blocked the laws in all but two.

The three-hour hearing unnerved many in the room and brought testy exchanges among colleagues on the panel. A vote will come next week.

Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, said he was disappointed by the graphic words being used for shock value.

“I think there is a level of couth being denied here today,” he said.

But Fort Wayne Dr. Christina Francis, an obstetrician-gynecologist, said if you are uncomfortable hearing the factual details of the procedure “shouldn't we be more uncomfortable that they are being done every day?”

Corrine Youngs, an attorney for Indiana Right to Life, showed the House Public Policy Committee an ultrasound of the twins she is currently carrying. 

“They don't deserve to die in this grisly way,” she said, noting the bill ends a very specific and gruesome type of abortion. She argued it is constitutional.

But others said legislators shouldn't be taking decisions away from women and their doctors.

“This bill would hurt Hoosier women by unnecessarily limiting options,” said Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis OB/GYN.

She said there is no medical reason to eliminate a safe procedure commonly used in second trimesters.

“This is purely political,” Bernard said.

The legislation would eliminate the procedure altogether if a woman is seeking it due to a catastrophic diagnosis of the fetus. Several doctors testified the only other option in those cases would be to intentionally cause the death of the fetus and then induce labor and delivery – a procedure with far more risks.

Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, asked who is going to help care for terminal children born as a result of this bill.

“It is not our place as a Legislature to tie their hands,” she said.

The bill also has language involving abortion complications related to a bill from last year that a court has blocked.