Indiana state senators narrowly passed a near-total abortion ban during a rare weekend session Saturday, sending the bill to the House of Representatives after a contentious week of wrangling over whether to allow exceptions for rape and incest.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 26-20 after about three hours of debate, passing the bill with the minimum 26 votes needed to pass it to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The bill would ban abortions from the moment a fertilized egg implants in a uterus. Exceptions would be allowed in cases of rape and incest, but a patient seeking an abortion for any reason would have to sign a notarized affidavit certifying the assault.
Indiana is one of the first Republican-controlled states to debate tougher abortion laws since the US Supreme Court last month overturned the precedent establishing a national right to abortion.
But the GOP fragmented after leaving exceptions for rape and incest in the bill on Thursday when an amendment that would have removed those exceptions failed.
Ten Republican senators voted against the bill Saturday, including a handful of abortion-rights supporters.
One of them, Republican Senator Vaneta Becker of Evansville, said the measure will affect women’s medical choices, their lives and their free will by severely limiting access to abortions in Indiana.
“Women deserve that we protect their lives and their free will. Senate Bill 1 destroys both. Shame on us for doing this,” she said, noting that only eight of the Senate’s 50 members are women.
“We consider dictating medical decisions with blinders on, unaware of the amazing unintended consequences we are creating,” Becker warned, saying the Senate is “just making a mess.”
Republican Senator Mike Young, whose amendment calling for no exceptions other than the mother’s life previously failed, said he voted against the bill not because he agrees with his opponents but because he has concerns about some aspects of the legislation , which he hopes will be addressed.
Young said one provision affecting him says a doctor can perform an abortion if he believes a woman’s life is in danger, but the doctor is not required to inform that woman that her life is in danger is in danger.
“She may never know the reasons why. I just think it’s important when a person makes the most important decision of their life that they should know if their life is in danger and what the reasons are,” he said.
GOP Sen. Sue Glick of LaGrange, who authored the abortion bill, said during the debate she doesn’t expect the Senate-approved legislation to be the final version that lawmakers will pass. She called the Senate bill “an expression of where we believe the state of Indiana is right now.”
The passage of the law “is a major step forward in protecting the lives of unborn children in our state,” Glick said in a statement after the bill was approved.
“We put together a bill that would not criminalize women and would protect the unborn whose voices have been silenced under Roe v Wade for the past 50 years,” she added.
Ten of the 11 Senate Democrats voted against the bill, with the 11th member absent from Saturday’s debate.
Democratic Senator Tim Lanane of Anderson condemned the bill as a product of a male-dominated legislature willing to deprive pregnant women of control of their own bodies.
“This is the Indiana state government, the male-dominated Indiana state government, telling the women of this state, you’re losing your election,” he said. “We told you – Papa State, big state government – will tell you what you’re going to do with your body. And I don’t think we’re ready for that.”
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where proposed changes could come as early as next week — the second week of the legislature’s three-week special session. The legislature must adjourn its session until August 14.
House Speaker Todd Huston declined Friday to discuss details of the Senate bill. But he said he supports the exceptions to rape and incest.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said earlier this summer that he had no “red lines” about what anti-abortion measures lawmakers might consider. But on July 12, Holcomb avoided commenting on how far the Republican-dominated Legislature should go in its special session on restricting abortion.
A national poll this month found that an overwhelming majority of Americans think their state should generally allow abortions in certain circumstances, including when a woman’s life is at risk or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Few believe abortion should always be illegal, according to a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.