People protesting an abortion ruling

Indiana made headlines recently becoming the first state to vote on abortion legislation since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. Many conservative states already had legislation, or “trigger laws” in place in the event Roe would be overturned, but Indiana is the first state to call a special session specifically to discuss reproductive rights for the state. 

What was the federal ruling on abortion?

Roe v. Wade overturned the federal right to abortion on June 24, leaving abortion legislation up to individual states. Before Roe was overturned, abortion was legal in Indiana up to 22 weeks gestation. Once Roe was overturned, Indiana lawmakers called a special session in which they determined a near-total ban on abortion in Indiana. It should be noted that the majority of Hoosiers, nearly 78%, are against these harsh bans.

What does the new abortion ruling in Indiana look like?

The special session lasted two weeks. The proposed abortion ban went through several iterations before determining that all abortion is illegal in the state of Indiana except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies, and when the life of the pregnant person is in danger. In cases of these exceptions, however, the abortion can only be performed up to 10 weeks gestation.

Earlier cases of this bill proposed a ban with these exceptions, saying that people 15 and under who fit the category of these exceptions had 12 weeks to seek an abortion, while people 16 and older only had 8. This earlier version also said that rape and incest survivors had to obtain an affidavit proving they had been harmed before receiving this medical care. That version was changed when the bill reached the House, however, leaving the 10-week exception, and no need for an affidavit. 

The final bill, known as SB1, despite being extremely restrictive, left the majority of Republicans wanting a stricter bill with absolutely no exceptions for rape or incest, no matter the age of the victim. No Democrats voted in favor of SB1.

What is the punishment for breaking this bill?

The bill also moved to terminate the licensing of abortion clinics in the state. Survivors of rape or incest, or pregnant people whose life is in danger must now seek an abortion before 10 weeks at either a hospital or outpatient surgery center. Practitioners who perform an illegal abortion can be charged with a Class 5 Felony, earning 1-6 years in prison, or up to a $10,000 fine. The person seeking the abortion would have any penalties, however. The bill goes into effect on September 15.

What are the expectations for this ruling?

Although the Republican lawmakers who voted for SB1 to pass all said this is a pro-life choice that will help women and babies, this bill will harm many people. The decision and reasoning behind seeking an abortion are incredibly nuanced and individual, something a single bill as restrictive as this cannot take into account. This bill says that if a child is abused and becomes pregnant, they only have 10 weeks to seek an abortion. Most people do not know they are pregnant until five or six weeks, and for others, it takes longer. If the pregnant person has irregular periods, for example, it can take longer to know you are pregnant. Or if you are a child who is being abused and doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation or how reproduction works, it could take longer to know you are pregnant. 

This law could potentially force a child who has been a victim of abuse to carry a child. If the child is young enough, their body likely would not be able to carry a pregnancy to full term, so being pregnant would put their life at risk. Could they still legally get an abortion in Indiana if they realize they are pregnant after 10 weeks even though staying pregnant and giving birth would likely kill them? It’s unclear at this point. 

Are there any exceptions?

The language in the bill making exceptions for when the life of the pregnant person is at risk is far too vague to allow abortion providers to act quickly in a life-threatening situation. Who decides when the pregnant person’s life is at risk? How close to death do they need to be “at risk” enough? Is the pregnant person’s mental health considered a factor? What if they experience suicidal ideation while pregnant? Is that “at risk” enough to seek a legal abortion in our state?

For example, the only way to treat an ectopic pregnancy is abortion, otherwise, the pregnant person will hemorrhage and die. This is a time-sensitive issue. What if someone shows up to the hospital, already bleeding, and has to wait for my doctor to call their lawyer to make sure them providing life-saving medical care is okay if it’s past the 10-week window? Indiana’s maternal mortality rate is the third highest in the country. It is alarming and dangerous that this restrictive bill lives in a state with such a high maternal mortality rate.

Can you travel to another state for an abortion?

Some people might question why abortion needs to be legal in a red state if it is legal in other places. Couldn’t a pregnant person travel outside the state to receive medical care if needed? Technically yes, but most people do not have the resources for that. In the example I mentioned above, a lot of the time, abortion can be extremely time-sensitive life-saving medical care. Someone would need medical attention immediately if there is an infection or hemorrhaging at risk. 

Most people do not have the expendable income to take time off work and travel to another state for a medical procedure. If the person seeking abortion already has children at home, it is unlikely that they can take time off work, pay for childcare, drive their car or take a bus across state lines, pay for a hotel room, and have the procedure, then make their way home. Because of these barriers, it is very likely that unsafe abortions will happen. You cannot outlaw abortion, you can only outlaw safe abortions. 

Reproductive rights affect everyone

Although this law is incredibly restrictive and does indeed affect all people with the capacity to get pregnant, it will disproportionally affect low-income people. The reality is, that reproductive rights affect everyone. Whether you have the capacity to get pregnant or not, reproductive rights affect your access to birth control and medical care. This law will likely have a ripple effect, affecting people’s healthcare, and affecting corporations’ involvement in Indiana. Indianapolis is known for hosting a lot of conferences, and people are predicting an adverse effect on Indiana’s economy. People predict that it will be hard to recruit businesses and corporations to invest in Indiana when reproductive healthcare here is unsafe. 

This bill goes into effect on September 15. Until then, abortions are still safe and legal in Indiana.

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