INDIANAPOLIS — One of the state’s leading political analysts believes Republican leadership already has enough votes to pass Senate Bill 1 in its current form but there will be attempts to amend it.
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, and Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, unveiled a total ban on abortion in the state of Indiana on Wednesday, with only exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
“I think it’s safe to say there will be amendments,” said Dr. Andrew Downs, associate professor and director of the Department of Political Science at Purdue University Fort Wayne.
One of the amendments that groups including the Indiana State Medical Association seek is to add an exception for the health of the mother, rather than the current exception only to save the life of the mother.
Health care providers are concerned that pregnant women who have pre-existing medical conditions could have their health worsened due to pregnancy.
“While there are certainly conditions that occur in pregnancy that will result in death of the person in the immediate future if an abortion is not performed, there are many more conditions for which pregnancy increases the risk of long-term health complications, including life-limiting ones. Care of these patients should include counseling on the risks of ongoing pregnancy and the option for abortion,” said Dr. Christina Scifres, an Indiana OB/GYN, in a press release.
Indiana already has the third highest maternal mortality rate in the country, with a rate of 43.6 deaths per 100,000 births.
“Our job as health care providers for pregnant patients is to preserve the health and wellbeing of pregnant patients—this includes counseling about abortion services. There is no distinct line between what only threatens a patient’s health and what threatens their life,” said Dr. Caroline Rouse, an Indiana OB/GYN and co-chair of the Legislative Committee for the Indiana section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in a press release.
Health care providers also worry that criminally punishing doctors will put Hoosiers’ health at risk.
“If health care providers are afraid of being put in jail for providing a life-saving procedure in the event of a significant risk to a person’s health, they may be afraid to act,” Rouse said. “The physician-patient relationship is so important, and when politicians interfere with and criminalize it, Hoosiers will suffer.”
Despite the likelihood of amendments, Downs thinks the bill likely has enough votes to pass already and is close to its final draft.
“I really doubt, and I could be wrong, but I doubt they (Republican leadership) would have gone to the trouble of drafting a bill that isn’t done unless leadership misread the caucus,” said Downs.
Although Senate Bill 1 is a total ban, Bray and Glick made it clear the bill “does not affect access to the morning-after pill or any other method of birth control, does not affect treatment of miscarriages, does not affect treatment of ectopic pregnancies, does not affect in-vitro fertilization procedures, does not prohibit ending a pregnancy when the unborn child would not be able to survive due to a fatal fetal anomaly, and does not criminalize women seeking an abortion.”
Downs said he was not surprised by SB 1 being more moderate than some other states also banning abortion and that it is in line with the previous behaviors of incrementalism that the Indiana Republicans have been using. Downs said Republican lawmakers have to be considerate of their upcoming elections and don’t want to go too extreme too fast and risk upsetting people enough to vote them out.
On the other side are those such as Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, who ask why not wait until the January session to legislate abortion laws. Although they don’t want to upset pro-abortion voters enough to vote them out, Downs said the Republicans cannot risk upsetting their Republican voters and constituency by ignoring an issue they are so passionate about.
“No one should be surprised that they are doing this in the special session,” said Downs.