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Indiana Senate lawmakers begin special session with testimony on abortion ban

07262022_indiana abortion special session_doctor mary ott_brandon smith ipb
Brandon Smith / IPB News
Almost every major medical provider organization in Indiana opposes a proposed bill that would ban abortion, with few exceptions. Dr. Mary Ott, a pediatrician, represented the American Academy of Pediatrics in her testimony in a state Senate committee hearing on July 25, 2022.

More than three dozen Hoosiers spent hours testifying Monday in the first public hearing on Indiana’s proposed abortion ban. And not a single one spoke in support of the bill.

The measure bans all abortions, with few exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the pregnant person is at risk. Senate Republicans unveiled their proposed legislation, SB 1(ss), Wednesday.

Anti-abortion rights advocates say the bill doesn’t go far enough. People like Noblesville student Emma Duell don’t believe in compromise on this issue. They want an abortion ban, with no exceptions.

“I don’t believe this is moral and I don’t believe this is just. I don’t believe children should be murdered based on their circumstance of conception," Duell said. "What happened the night they were conceived – something they have no control over – should not affect whether they are protected from abortion violence or not.”

Many anti-abortion advocates cited their Christian faith in testimony. But so too did faith leaders like the Rev. Gray Lesesne, the dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis. He said banning abortion will endanger the lives of members of his congregation.

“I am asking you to give Hoosier women and pregnant people the dignity and respect to make these difficult decisions with their doctors, their families and their communities of faith,” Lesesne said.

Almost every major medical provider organization in Indiana opposed the bill.

Doctors and nurses testified hearing, representing groups including the Indiana State Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – all opposed to the measure.

Maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. Mary Abernathy said an abortion ban will increase maternal and infant mortality.

“My concern is that OB-providers in rural areas will simply decide to stop providing maternity care or choose never to restart with our program," Abernathy said. "I fear that they will become worried that they might run afoul of the law, somehow.”

Yet a few individual doctors testified against the bill because they want a harsher abortion ban. Dr. Tyler Johnson said the measure’s language is too vague. He’s on the ballot this fall, seeking to become a state senator. And he said an exception in the bill that allows abortions if there is risk to the life of the pregnant person will be “manipulated.”

“The issue that we are really debating is whether life has inherent value before we are born,” Johnson said.

Some who testified wanted the bill to push further in not just restricting abortion but other medical care. That includes access to the morning after pill – known as Plan B – and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Fort Wayne high school student Marek Kizer called those treatments "idolatrous."

"I have to warn you: the Bible says that upon those who love violence, God shall rain fire and sulfur," Kizer said.

Ariel Ream is an Indianapolis resident who is in the middle of undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment. She said she's at high risk of complications if she does get pregnant. And she said she might have to stop trying to get pregnant if the bill becomes law.

"I can't tell you what that means to me when my husband says to me, 'I'm scared to have a baby through IVF because I don't know if you'll live and I don't know if I can get you the care you need in time to survive it,'" Ream said. "It simply is just too vague. When is enough? When am I hemorrhaging enough to be able to get care?"

A Senate committee will take further testimony on the bill Tuesday before voting on it.

The hearing was against the backdrop of Vice President Kamala Harris's visit to Indianapolis to discuss abortion and thousands of protesters who gathered at the capitol both in favor of and against abortion care access.

This story has been updated.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.