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Indiana House Republicans approve near-total abortion ban

Indiana House Republicans look on as Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) speaks on the House floor on Aug. 5, 2022 during debate on a near-total abortion ban.
Brandon Smith / IPB News
Indiana House Republicans look on as Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) speaks on the House floor on Aug. 5, 2022 during debate on a near-total abortion ban.

Indiana House Republicans voted to ban nearly all abortions Friday, with limited exceptions.

Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville), the House sponsor of SB1 (ss), said it makes Indiana what she calls the most “pro-life” – that is, anti-abortion – state in the country.

“It is consistent with our overall goal to care for mother and baby,” McNamara said.

Abortions would only be allowed if the pregnant person’s serious health or life is at risk; if there’s a lethal fetal anomaly up to 20 weeks; and in cases of rape or incest, but only up to 10 weeks.

Rep. Joanna King (R-Middlebury), the bill's co-sponsor, said she believes life begins at conception.

"I believe life is a gift," King said. "This body has the duty to protect life."

Rep. Carolyn Jackson (D-Hammond) said the bill is not about being “pro-life.” She said it’s about the state “punishing women for their biology.”

“And it is cruel, it’s unjust and it’s downright despicable,” Jackson said.

The House vote was 62 to 38, with nine Republicans joining every Democrat to oppose the measure.

Rep. Cindy Ledbetter (R-Newburgh) is one of those Republicans. She talked about her own unplanned pregnancy when she was young. She said she was poor when she came to Indiana and lacked access to health care services. Ledbetter said the state has failed to help provide services that could've prevented abortions over the years.

"I cannot, in good conscience, vote for this bill," Ledbetter said.

Rep. Ann Vermilion (R-Marion) also voted against the measure. She called herself "pro-life and pro-choice" and said she worries the ban will galvanize voters and force Republicans out of office.

"I think we have to stop calling ourselves 'pro-life' if it only means we have a priority list on life," Vermilion said.

In an emotional, and at times tearful speech, Rep. Maureen Bauer (D-South Bend) said she sees people getting involved in politics because of this issue, "as if their future depended on it."

"Forced birth is not freedom," Bauer said. "Indiana's going to force women and girls to give birth when 50 percent of our state is a child care desert. Forced birth in the only wealthy nation that does not provide paid family medical leave. Forced birth in a nation where Black moms face higher rates of death from pregnancy and childbirth. Forced birth where we average one mass shooting per day and have no universal health care or universal child care."

A few House Republicans who cast "no" votes Friday did so because they think the ban doesn't go far enough. One of those is Rep. John Jacob (R-Indianapolis). He's an anti-abortion extremist who believes all abortions should be banned, even when the pregnant person would die.

"Human life begins at conception," Jacob said. "Murder is the taking of an innocent human being's life. And abortion always takes the life of an innocent pre-born human being."

Rep. Renee Pack (D-Indianapolis) didn't hold back her anger at Jacob's remarks.

"Sir, I am not a murderer. And my sisters are not murderers, either," Pack said. "We are pro-choice. That is what we are. We believe that we have command over our own bodies. That's who we are."

More than half of the House Republican caucus wanted a more restrictive ban. They voted Thursday for an amendment that would've stripped out the rape and incest protections.

But most of the them ended up voting for the final bill. Rep. Jeff Ellington (R-Bloomfield) likened it to leading 100 troops in battle. He chose, he said, to fight to save 93 of them, rather than abandon all 100.

"I'm going to take this foundational building block and make a decision for the future," Ellington said.

The Senate is set to consider a final vote on the bill Friday evening.

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.

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