Days after lawmakers listened to hours of testimony on a bill to forbid a controversial abortion procedure in the second trimester, members of the House Public Policy committee settled the discussion in less than 20 minutes Monday with a vote to advance the measure.
At a hearing on Feb. 13, the public policy committee first reviewed House Bill 1211. The measure, authored by Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, would subject physicians who perform a second-trimester “dismemberment abortion” to a level 5 felony.
Those against HB 1211, including representatives for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the term “dismemberment” is not a medical definition and is instead a word used to invoke fear in the public.
The procedure is formally called a Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) and remains among the rarest abortion procedures. Of the 7,778 abortions performed in Indiana in 2017, according to the state department of health, 0.35 percent were D&E procedures.
Members of Indiana Right to Life and National Right to Life, also present at last week’s hearing, hold that D&E procedures are nothing less than “barbaric” and an injustice to an unborn fetus.
On Monday, Mayfield offered an amendment to her bill to clarify how women’s identities are protected if they choose to sue a provider for any complications that result from an abortion. Under normal circumstances, when a woman chooses to sue, rules provided by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) do not apply and guarantee privacy.
“With this amendment, the woman’s identity is automatically, by default, kept from public disclosure,” Mayfield said. “She does not have to petition the court to justify it.”
Mayfield’s amendment passed 9-3, with Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, excused. The committee immediately moved the bill forward in a 9-4 vote across party lines. Reps. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, and Moed voted no.
After casting her vote, Austin questioned why Committee Chair Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, did not allow further discussion on the bill after Mayfield’s amendment was adopted. Smaltz said he didn’t realize the committee wanted a longer conversation.
Since 2013, all anti-abortion bills passed by the Indiana General Assembly were blocked by federal judges.
These laws remain subject to scrutiny and challenge. Earlier this month, for example, the office of Attorney General Curtis Hill asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an injunction on an Indiana law passed in 2016 that would add an 18-hour waiting period between a required pre-abortion ultrasound and the abortion procedure.
HB 1211 moves to the House Chamber for further discussion.
Erica Irish is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.