Abortion-rights supporters crowded the halls of the Indiana Statehouse throughout the day as lawmakers voted, some holding signs that read “You can only ban safe abortions” and “The abortion is health care. Moments after the vote, some protesters hugged and others stood stunned before the crowd erupted in chanting “We won’t stop”.
In a statement released after the bill was signed, Holcomb said he had “clearly stated” after the fall of deer that he would be willing to support anti-abortion legislation. He also pointed to the “carefully negotiated” exceptions in the law, which he said deal with “some of the unthinkable circumstances that a woman or an unborn child might face.”
Before deciding on the exceptions, Republican lawmakers disagreed on the scope of the law, with some GOP members side with Democrats by demanding that abortion be legal in cases of rape and incest.
The vote followed days of citizen testimony and sometimes heated debate. “Sir, I’m not a murderer,” Rep. Renee Pack (D) said in the chamber after Rep. John Jacob (R), a staunch opponent of abortion who wanted rape exceptions scrapped, described the proceedings as murder.
Abortion rights organizations were quick to rebuke Friday’s decision. Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the vote “was cruel and will prove devastating to pregnant women and their families in Indiana and across the region.” “Hoosiers didn’t want that,” Johnson said.
In a statement, the anti-abortion group Indiana Right to Life opposed the exceptions and said the new law did not go far enough in reducing access to abortion.
Indiana Republicans’ push to restrict access to abortion stands in stark contrast to overwhelming support from voters in Kansas, where an attempt to remove abortion protections was rejected this week in another traditionally conservative state. This victory is likely to strengthen the hope of the Democratic Party that the Supreme Court decision tear down Roe vs. Wade energize voters ahead of the midterm elections.
In Indiana, Democratic lawmakers described the Kansas vote as a warning to fellow Republicans to heed potential voter fallout.
Unlike many of its predominantly conservative neighboring states in the Midwest, Indiana had no “trigger law” on the books that would immediately ban abortion when deer was overthrown. Because the procedure was legal in the state for up to 22 weeks, Indiana became the destination for many people seeking to terminate their pregnancies.
Cutting this “critical access point” can force people to travel “hundreds of miles or carry pregnancies against their will,” the American Civil Liberties Union said.
More recently, a 10-year-old girl victim of rape had to go to Indianapolis for an abortion after being denied one in his home state of Ohio. The case provoked outrage among abortion rights supporters, was criticized by President Biden and attracted international attention.
The OB/GYN who provided the care, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, was subjected to threats and harassment. His legal team plans to file a libel suit against the Indiana attorney general, whose office is investigate how the abortion case was handled.
Kim Bellware and Ellen Francis contributed to this report.