Indiana lawmakers advance new abortion restrictions that duplicate existing state laws | Health Care

The prospect that the U.S. Supreme Court in coming months may rescind its 49-year-old precedent…

The prospect that the U.S. Supreme Court in coming months may rescind its 49-year-old precedent establishing a constitutional right to abortion isn’t stopping the Indiana General Assembly from engaging in its annual attempt to further regulate the procedure.

The Republican-controlled House voted 73-18 Tuesday to prohibit “coerced abortions,” which already are banned by Indiana’s abortion law that requires “the voluntary and informed consent of the pregnant woman” prior to obtaining an abortion, and already a crime under Indiana’s intimidation statute.

Nevertheless, House Bill 1217 would add a 12th mandatory advisory statement — “that no one has the right to coerce the pregnant woman to have an abortion” — to the long list of things Indiana law requires a pregnant person be shown and told about abortion at least 18 hours before their procedure.

In addition, the legislation mandates an abortion provider who suspects a woman is being coerced into having an abortion, despite her denials, to delay the abortion for at least 24 hours and immediately contact law enforcement who must immediately investigate the allegation.

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State Rep. Joanna King, R-Middlebury, the sponsor, said even though state records show Indiana abortion providers only ever have suspected three women of being potentially coerced into abortion, she said national data show many women who have had an abortion felt pressure before undergoing the procedure.

“Our state has seen too many women being coerced into having an abortion rather than receiving the care and compassion that they need to be protected from such horrific abuse,” King said.

“This bill is not about limiting abortions, it is about protecting women and children. No one should ever be forced to have an abortion against their will.”

State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, suggested King’s proposal is not needed because health care providers already are attuned to domestic violence issues, and a law directing abortion providers to immediately trigger a law enforcement investigation is likely to put a pregnant woman at greater risk from the person allegedly forcing her to have an abortion.

“I think that person is going to be very angry that law enforcement showed up, and I think that as we’ve seen in many domestic violence cases it’s not going to be a happy ending,” Pierce said. “These kind of cases require more finesse than this bill is putting forth.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis, condemned the measure for seeking to regulate abortion, instead of outlawing it altogether as he’s proposed in House Bill 1282.

Jacob told the House in his work as an anti-abortion activist outside abortion clinics he’s “literally seen thousands of women go into these mills to willingly murder their baby, and I’ve never seen a woman forced, coerced, dragged into a clinic to have an abortion.”

“I think it’s nothing more than a feel good bill designed to make it seem like we’re doing something when we’re really doing nothing,” Jacob said. “Any bill that ends with ‘and then you can kill the baby’ is an evil law. And that’s what this is.”

In response, King insisted: “I do believe this bill will help save babies.”

The state’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said it views the legislation as another in Indiana’s long history of abortion restrictions — often later struck down by federal courts — that aim to make abortion access as difficult as possible.

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“Planned Parenthood advocates for healthy relationships — which includes reproductive decision-making and deciding whether to get pregnant and have children — without pressure or manipulation by a partner or politicians. Let’s be clear: HB1217 puts people in Indiana in more danger, not less,” said Lisa Humes-Schulz, vice president of policy and regulatory affairs.

The legislation now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate for further review.

A separate abortion measure, Senate Bill 399, that similarly duplicates existing state law is expected to advance next week from the Senate to the House.

It would substitute a parent’s signature on a specific state form that reiterates the mandatory advisories provided to abortion patients for the notarized parental consent already required by Indiana law for a person under 18 to have an abortion.