Holcomb, GOP lawmakers prepare to meet in special session consider banning abortion in Indiana

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Lawmakers called into special session on July 6 by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb for the purpose of voting on a proposed refund of surplus tax dollars have a pressing new front-burner agenda item — banning abortion.

Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, said that because the United States Supreme Court on Friday overturned Constitutional federal abortion rights enshrined for nearly 50 years under Roe v. Wade, lawmakers will seek to vote on legislation that could make abortion illegal in Indiana. He called Friday’s ruling a “monumental” decision.

“I believe that the legislature will address the topic of abortion and the regulations that exist today in Indiana,” Lauer said of the special session in less than two weeks. “I expect we will be addressing that, and my hope is we will move Indiana in a pro-life direction, and how far Indiana ends up going is going to be a result of debate and discussion.”

Holcomb in a statement Friday encouraged lawmakers to act.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is clear, and it is now up to the states to address this important issue. We’ll do that in short order in Indiana. I’ve already called the General Assembly back on July 6, and I expect members to take up this matter as well,” Holcomb said.

“I have been clear in stating I am pro-life. We have an opportunity to make progress in protecting the sanctity of life, and that’s exactly what we will do.”

Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly hold virtually unchecked lawmaking power with a supermajority and have long pledged to restrict or outlaw abortion in the state if Roe was overturned. Lauer said he would consider exceptions on banning abortion in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life was at risk, but he said Friday he also would consider bans that are even more restrictive.

“If a bill came forward that didn’t include all the exceptions, I would take a look at it, but I would likely be in favor,” Lauer said.

Columbus’ Republican congressional delegation in Washington also hailed Friday’s ruling.

“Today is a monumental day for the protection of life in America and a defining moment for our nation,” Sen. Todd Young, a Republican facing re-election in November, said in a statement. “Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and the Supreme Court has corrected a historic injustice.

“The American people will now have the opportunity, through their state elected officials, to decide our laws when it comes to protecting life and protecting women. It’s now time to work on solutions that affirm the right to life and support pregnant women and mothers,” Young said.

Congressman Greg Pence, R-Columbus, also hailed Friday’s ruling striking down Roe v. Wade. “Today is a new day for our nation when life wins, freedom wins. As a father and grandfather, I am happy to see the justices of our Supreme Court have affirmed that every person is granted the right to life under the United States Constitution,” Pence said in a statement.

Indiana Democrats expressed alarm.

State Rep. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, said in a statement, “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has decided to go against nearly 50 years of precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade. The right to privacy is one of the most important in a free society, and today the Supreme Court has made it open season for state governments to limit women’s rights to privacy.

“I trust women to make this deeply personal decision. Government doesn’t have any business being in exam rooms for folks’ healthcare decisions. Instead of banning abortion, we should focus our efforts on improving access to affordable healthcare, lowering our infant and maternal mortality rates and expanding access to childcare. Those are the kinds of pro-life and pro-family policies that will benefit Hoosiers.”

Democratic Secretary of State candidate Destiny Wells assailed Friday’s ruling. She noted recent polls showed two-thirds of Americans opposed overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Women dying is non-negotiable for me,” Wells said. “I’m a woman candidate. I need to make sure women are being represented at the ballot box. We don’t have a voting system in place that allows us to be truly represented. If we did, we wouldn’t be talking about life-saving care being outlawed.

“Reproductive freedom is reproductive health care,” she said. “What it means for Hoosier women at large is no longer having access to health care that keeps them both healthy and alive. It’s also how they are affected economically and socially as a citizen. They’re carrying the burden of raising our future, but in doing this, they’re being asked to sacrifice the future they might have for Republican gamesmanship.”

Myla Eldridge, vice chair of the Indiana Democratic Party, said in a statement, “It is unclear how extreme the Indiana Republican Party will go, but politicians like U.S. Sen. Todd Young have signed pledges they wish for the state to enact a total ban on abortions even in the cases of rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother.”

“My heart breaks today, because with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion, a 50-year understanding and American standard has been stripped away from women of all stripes, colors, and backgrounds,” Eldridge said. “Generations of women for the first time will be forced to make dangerous decisions many of us thought we left in history books. And what horrifies me most, underprivileged women especially Black and Brown Hoosiers in urban communities will see their futures dashed or their lives be put at risk because the nation’s highest court backed a small minority over the large majority of Americans who want to keep living up to the foundations and freedoms of the United States.”

Lauer said he is working with Republican caucus lawmakers who plan to introduce abortion legislation at the July 6 special session, though he declined to say whether he would author legislation.

“My position is I’d like to see a future where abortion is a relic of the past,” Lauer said. “We need to protect these children just waiting to be born and we need to protect and support mothers.”