The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 26, 2017 10:04 pm

Abortion ban attempt won't get committee hearing

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS -- A controversial attempt to ban abortion in Indiana is dead for the session.

Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, said Thursday he will not give House Bill 1134 a hearing -- his first major action as new chairman of the House Public Policy Committee.

Smaltz said he couldn't get past the fact that there were no exemptions for abortion in the case of rape, incest and saving the mother's life.

The latter is especially a concern if an expectant mother has health complications and the choice medically is between saving the woman or the fetus. 

"If my wife is on the table and the government comes in and says 'no,' there's going to be a fight," he said.

Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, made a splash with pro-lifers when he introduced what he calls the "Protection at Conception" act.

It defines human physical life as beginning when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm. And it says the state has a compelling interest in protecting human physical life.

The legislation would criminalize all abortion -- essentially treating the death of a fetus the same as the death of any human being.

"I'm disappointed. I think it's worth having the discussion," Nisly said about the bill's demise. "I'm not going to give up because all the Hoosiers I've heard from are supportive.

"They've been waiting for something like this for years. People are excited about this concept."

The bill is likely unconstitutional under the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protected a woman's right to have an abortion before viability

But some believe the bill could have been a test case that would be challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of ultimately overturning Roe. The composition of the court has shifted in recent decades and new President Donald Trump could push it further to the right.

Smaltz also said he was concerned that if the law was struck down by a judge -- as has happened with other Indiana abortion bills -- it would also eliminate all the rules and regulations lawmakers have painstakingly put in through the years, including health standards of clinics, waiting periods and informed consent.

The bill strikes the entire abortion code.

"That would be catastrophic to the cause," he said.

Smaltz said he spoke to people on all sides of the issue, and Indiana Right to Life and Allen County Right to Life had profound concerns.

Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter said his group will continue to focus on a legislative strategy that has been successful in reducing the number of abortions and the number of abortion clinics in Indiana. 

"We are giving our attention to legislation that ends state funding for any organization that does abortion training, cracking down on non-parental adults who take minors across state lines for abortions, and increasing health and safety standards at chemical abortion facilities," he said.

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