What happened in the first week of Indiana’s special session? And what’s next?
Indiana lawmakers gathered for the start of a special session on Monday, July 25, to consider bills that ban abortion, send financial support to families and provide inflation relief. In the last week they’ve debated four bills – three Senate measures, one House measure – to tackle those topics.
On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris advocated for reproductive rights at the state library during a roundtable with Democratic state and federal lawmakers. At the same time, hundreds of abortion advocates gathered at the Statehouse. More than 250 people signed up to testify on the bill in a Senate committee Monday.
For several hours leading up to the abortion rally, chants of “my body, my choice” could be heard throughout the capitol. The protests were organized by a number of advocacy groups including the ACLU of Indiana and Planned Parenthood.
Anti-abortion activists also gathered at the Statehouse and called for further restrictions to the abortion ban being considered by lawmakers. Protests were held at the Statehouse throughout the week.
More than three dozen Hoosiers spent hours testifying Monday, July 25 in the first public hearing on Indiana’s proposed abortion ban. And not a single one spoke in support of the bill.
Religious leaders, medical professionals, students and others testified against the bill.
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?"
Anti-abortion rights advocates said 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.”
The Senate testimony had to be continued on Tuesday.
Indiana Senate Republicans added further restrictions to their proposed abortion ban Tuesday.
The measure, SB 1 (ss), bans abortions except in cases of rape and incest and when the life of the pregnant person is at risk.
But a Senate committee changed the rape and incest exception. Now, an abortion could only be performed if the pregnancy is less than eight weeks “post-fertilization.” If the pregnant person is younger than 16 years old, then they can access abortion in cases of rape and incest up to 12 weeks after fertilization.
The committee made two other changes to the bill. One would ensure that when a doctor terminates a pregnancy because the fetus can’t survive outside the womb – one of the only kind of abortions the measure would allow – it must be reported like any other abortion. The other change Republicans approved affects affidavits pregnant people must sign if they want an abortion in cases of rape or incest. The amendment requires that affidavit to be included in the person’s permanent health record, which critics worry could make it less confidential.
Sen. Mike Young proposed an amendment that would have limited exceptions in the ban – only when the life of the pregnant person is at risk. Exceptions, he said, equal death.
“And what you’re telling me is if they rape the woman, we oughta kill the baby,” Young said. “That is not right and I will never, ever accept that.”
The debate on Young’s amendment alone took two hours. And lawmakers on both sides of the vote professed their religious beliefs on the floor to defend their position.
Eighteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting against Young’s proposal. Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange), the author of the abortion ban bill, said rape and incest victims shouldn’t have choice taken away from them.
“Don’t foster that evil on them after the evil they’ve already suffered,” Glick said.
Lawmakers considered 32 other changes to the abortion ban. Most were offered by Democrats, and the vast majority were rejected. Some amendments would’ve deleted provisions in the bill while others proposed adding more support for pregnant people.
Sen. Aaron Freeman’s (R-Indianapolis) amendment would allow the Indiana attorney general to take over prosecution of cases if a local prosecutor “categorically” refuses to prosecute certain laws. He said prosecutors shouldn’t get to pick and choose which laws to enforce.
Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) successfully pushed an amendment affecting abortions performed in cases of rape and incest. The bill requires victims to sign an affidavit before they can access abortion care. Brown’s amendment requires those affidavits to be notarized. And she also stripped out language in the bill explicitly ensuring the documents are confidential.
Democrats also successfully added a pair of amendments to the bill. Current law requires a pregnant minor to get their parents’ consent to get an abortion. Sen. Tim Lanane’s (D-Anderson) amendment said that if the minor is pregnant by their parent, legal guardian or custodian, that parental consent requirement doesn’t apply.
And under an amendment from Sen. Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis), the state maternal mortality review committee will study the abortion ban’s impact on maternal mortality over the next few years.
Senate final passage
The ban passed the state Senate by a single vote Saturday. To send the measure to the House, the Senate needed a “constitutional majority” or 26 votes. The bill passed, 26-20.
The measure that now goes to the House, SB 1 (ss), bans abortion except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the pregnant person is at risk. For the rape and incest exceptions, the victim must sign an affidavit and get it notarized. And even then, if they're 16 years old or older, they only have eight weeks to access abortion care. If they're younger than 16, they have 12 weeks.
In three hours of debate Saturday, only one person spoke in favor of the bill: its author, Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange). And she called it an imperfect framework.
“We’re trying to hit an area or a place that we can live with, if you will – that we can protect as many people as possible,” Glick said.
Ten Republicans voted against the bill. Some said the measure goes too far, and others explained their vote, saying it doesn’t go far enough to ban abortion in the state.
Senate inflation relief, family financial supports
A Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would spend $50 million on financial supports and resources for pregnant people, children and families.
Many organizations that provide such services testified in support of the bill. But many also shared a common refrain: more money is good. But $50 million isn’t enough.
The committee also unanimously advanced an inflation relief measure that would allow the average Hoosier household to save about $20 a month for the next six months.
That legislation, SB 3 (ss), would suspend, for six months, the state sales tax you pay on your utility bills – electricity, water, gas, internet and phone. It also caps the sales tax on gasoline and rolls back a one-penny-per-gallon gas tax increase. But those are unlikely to make a difference at the pump.
The rest of the money in the bill would be spent on state construction projects and paying down teacher pension fund debt.
SB 2 (ss) was easily sent to the House on Friday. The bill’s author, Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle), acknowledged that he’d like to see more money, especially for mental health.
And SB 3 (ss) was sent to the House on Saturday, after debate on Thursday over the Senate’s abortion ban ran late.
Important to note: The House and Senate are pretty far apart on what inflation relief and wraparound services spending should look like. The House – like Gov. Eric Holcomb – wants to send $225 checks to eligible Hoosiers in addition to several tax exemptions for dependent or adopted children. It also expands Medicaid coverage to include labor and delivery services for people likely to qualify.
House inflation relief, family financial supports
The House Ways and Means Committee passed its version of inflation relief Tuesday that would send a $225 check to eligible Hoosiers.
Indiana residents who were not required to file tax returns with the state in 2021 would be able to sign an affidavit in order to claim their $225 return.
That was a sticking point for members of the Indiana Department of Revenue. They said that could include anywhere from 300,000 to 800,000 additional Hoosiers and require a massive effort to verify each affidavit.
It is one potential solution for older Hoosiers, Hoosiers with disabilities and Hoosiers who didn’t make enough to file taxes.
Republicans and Democrats in the House clashed Thursday over the scope of a bill that includes family financial supports and offers inflation relief to Hoosiers. The majority of the more than 20 amendments considered focused on what kinds of support families and children should get.
Several amendments did pass, including one concerning an advisory board for doulas and another that would place signage at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles directing questions about pregnancy, adoption and foster care to IN.gov.
The House quickly finalized its inflation relief and family supports bill on Friday before sending it to the Senate. During the final discussion of HB 1001(ss), Democrats reiterated one final time that the bill was good – but didn’t go far enough in supporting families and children.
Speaker of the House Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said it was difficult voting down some Democrat amendments.
“Look, they are hard to defeat,” he said. “In a lot of ways they make a lot of sense. But you have to look holistically.”
But Huston said, at the end of the day his vote came with no “buts.”
“I will enthusiastically vote the green button on this bill,” he said. “It’s the right thing for taxpayers, it’s the right thing for all Hoosiers, it’s the right thing for women and children. I appreciate your support on this bill.”
Each bill will go through a similar process in the opposite chamber. The Senate bills on abortion, inflation relief and family financial supports will likely be heard on first reading in the House on Monday and will be assigned to a committee.
The Senate is expected to wait until Wednesday for a committee hearing on HB 1001 (ss).
Both chambers remain pretty fair apart on what inflation relief and family financial support should look like.
If any changes are made to the abortion bill, SB 1(ss), in the House, those changes may either be accepted by the Senate or the two chambers will go to a conference committee to work out an agreement. If the Senate accepts the changes to the bill, the full chamber takes what’s called a concurrence vote – an up or down vote on whether the bill should be sent to the governor. If the legislation goes to conference committee and both sides can reach an agreement on what the final legislation should look like, both chambers must take one more vote on the measure’s final version.
With the family financial supports and inflation relief bills, the chambers could choose HB 1001 (ss) to be the vehicle for a final agreement on both, together. Or they could choose to use the two Senate bills to advance the concepts separately – or even a mix of House and Senate legislation. Beyond that, the process is the same: if there are changes to the bills in either chamber, there will then be concurrence votes or conference committee.
They have until Aug. 14 to complete their work.
Indiana Public Broadcasting's Brandon Smith contributed to this story.
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