Indiana House of Representatives. Staff file photo by Doug Ross
Indiana House of Representatives. Staff file photo by Doug Ross
The Indiana House will vote Friday on legislation that would make it nearly impossible for pregnant women and girls to choose to terminate their pregnancies in the Hoosier State.

Senate Bill 1 bans abortion from the moment of conception, except in the case of pregnancies caused by rape or incest, when a doctor determines continuing a pregnancy would cause a serious health risk or death to the pregnant woman, or following the diagnosis of a lethal fetal anomaly.

If approved by the House's 71 Republicans and 29 Democrats, the near-total abortion ban will return to the Republican-controlled Senate for lawmakers there to either consent to the changes made by the House, or to send the legislation to a conference committee where a few representatives and senators will attempt to work out a compromise version that must again win majority support in both chambers.

The House agreed Thursday to adopt minor tweaks to the abortion exceptions, including clarifying the definition of serious health risk, which was not a part of the Senate-approved proposal, and limiting abortion because of a lethal fetal anomaly to 20 weeks post-fertilization.

The measure also requires abortion due to rape or incest be completed no later than 10 weeks post-fertilization, but no longer includes a Senate component obligating the pregnant woman to submit a non-confidential, notarized affidavit attesting to the criminal circumstances that led to her pregnancy.

"I really believe this bill is where it needs to be. It's in a good place," said state Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, a LaPorte native and sponsor of the legislation.

An attempt by a few anti-abortion lawmakers to delete the exceptions, reclassify abortion as murder and subject women who obtain abortions to prosecution for a level 1 felony, punishable by 20 to 40 years in prison, was overwhelmingly defeated 93-6 by House members, who were called in response "evil" and "wicked" by state Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis.

"Abortion is always murder because it always takes the life of an innocent human being," Jacob said. "If human life begins at conception then these pre-born human beings deserve the same rights you and I have."

An effort by state Rep. Karen Engleman, R-Georgetown, to delete only the rape and incest exceptions also was rejected, 61-39, with every member of the Northwest Indiana legislative delegation, Republican and Democrat, voting to preserve the exceptions.

At the same time, some three dozen revisions proposed by Democratic representatives failed to win sufficient support to be inserted in the legislation.

They included a 20-week period to obtain an abortion following a rape or incest pregnancy, delaying the start of the measure to Nov. 1 from Sept. 15, a requirement that Indiana businesses provide accommodations for their pregnant employees, and a 68-32 decision against putting a non-binding question on the Nov. 8 general election ballot asking Hoosier voters if abortion should remain legal.

State Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, said she believes Indiana, similar to Kansas, has a "silent majority" of citizens who want to preserve abortion access, even though the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the go-ahead to further restrict or ban abortion in its June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson ruling.

"I think the people of Indiana would like that same opportunity to express their view on whether abortion should remain legal," Errington said. "You would be able to see what the people in your counties want."

In response, McNamara noted Indiana is "not a referendum state." She said the Indiana Constitution directs the representatives of the people serving in the General Assembly to make these decisions, not Hoosier voters.

A separate proposal by state Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, to prohibit the sale of drugs in Indiana to treat erectile dysfunction and sexual impotence was defeated on an unrecorded voice vote.

"If an unwanted pregnancy is an act of God, then impotency must also be an act of God," Bartlett said. "It takes two people for a pregnancy to come about and to put all the onus on the woman, I think, is unfair."
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