Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a bill into law Thursday that severely restricts reproductive rights with an assortment of regulations, including banning pregnant people from terminating a pregnancy due to fetal anomalies or the sex or race of a fetus.
The GOP-backed bill would have become law even if Pence had declined to sign it.
Some Republican legislators with anti-choice voting records opposed the omnibus anti-abortion bill, but Pence signed it on the last day he could approve or reject legislation this year.
There is no documentation that sex-selection abortions are a widespread problem in the United States. Proponents of the bans often justify the policy by using cultural stereotypes that target immigrant people of color.
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HB 1337, sponsored by Rep. Casey Cox (R-Ft. Wayne), makes numerous changes to state laws, including requiring forced counseling and mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients, creating regulations on physicians who provide abortion care, and banning fetal tissue donation that has led to the development of vaccines and other public health benefits.
Physicians are prohibited from providing abortion care if the physician knows that the pregnant person is seeking the procedure because of the “race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the fetus.” Abortion care has also been outlawed if the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or any other disability.
“We know that you’re going to be forcing woman [sic] and families to suffer emotionally because they’re going to be force to carry pregnancies that are not viable,” Kate Connors, director of communications for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Associated Press. “We’ve been hoping that the resounding chorus of voices would hit home. It obviously did not.”
The new law gives the “parent or parents” of a miscarried fetus the right to take possession of the remains of a miscarried or aborted fetus. If that person or those individuals decide not to take possession of the fetal remains, the health-care facility would be required to provide for the final disposition of the miscarried or aborted fetus, which could then only be cremated or interred.
Under the law, anyone who knowingly transports an aborted fetus into or out of Indiana would be committing a class A misdemeanor, unless the aborted fetus was transported for the purpose of final disposition. A class A misdemeanor could result in a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The omnibus law requires a physician to perform an ultrasound on a pregnant person considering an abortion at least 18 hours prior to the procedure, at the same time “informed consent” is obtained. The pregnant person must be given the opportunity to view the images and hear the auscultation of the fetal heart tone. The pregnant person could choose not view the images or listen to the audio.
It also requires the state department of health to submit copies of admitting privileges and written agreements between physicians to other hospitals in the county and contiguous counties in which abortions are performed.
Pence called the legislation a “comprehensive pro-life measure,” and signed the bill despite protests from reproductive rights advocates in the state and throughout the country. An online petition, organized by Indy Feminists, has gathered more than 5,700 signatures opposing the bill.
While Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill, there were some who opposed it on the grounds that it is intrusive in the relationship between a doctor and a patient.
Republicans like Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Merrillville) opposed the sweeping anti-choice law on the grounds that it is too punitive. “The bill does nothing to save innocent lives. There’s no education, there’s no funding. It’s just penalties,” Negele told the Chicago Tribune.
The law will take effect in July. Reproductive rights advocates have vowed to bring a legal challenge against the law.
“It is clear that the governor is more comfortable practicing medicine without a license than behaving as a responsible lawyer, as he picks and chooses which constitutional rights are appropriate,” said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky is working to request that the law be blocked before it takes effect.
State Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond) told the New York Times that the anti-choice omnibus law is part of an effort by Republican lawmakers to effectively ban abortion care throughout the state.
“They’ve been on a mission, the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly, to make sure that affordable health care and abortion is no longer available for women in the state of Indiana,” Lawson said.