Both parties support restrictions
Abortion opponents on both sides of the aisle are celebrating political victories in the Indiana General Assembly as House Bill 1172 passed out of committee and received a second reading in front of the full House of Representatives on Jan. 30. It is expected to pass its third and final reading before being sent to the Senate next week.
The bill makes several changes to what is known as Indiana's "Informed Consent" law. Currently, a woman seeking an abortion must be told 18 hours before the procedure the risks of and alternatives to abortion, an offer to provide a drawing or picture of a fetus, information on the potential survival of an unborn fetus, an offer to hear the fetal heart beat or view an ultra-sound image of the fetus, adoption is an alternative to abortion and adoptive parents may legally choose to pay for prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care, and available welfare programs that might pay for prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care.
The new bill adds to the Informed Consent process by requiring a physician to inform a pregnant woman that 1) a fetus may feel pain; 2) an anesthetic or other painkilling medication my be provided during an abortion; and 3) insurance may or may not cover the anesthetic.
Rep. Tim Harris, a Republican from Marion, authored the bill, but it had strong support in the House Committee on Public Policy and Veteran's Affairs with all six Republicans voting yes and two of five Democrats supporting the bill. Only Democratic Reps. Terri Austin, Robert Kuzman and Vanessa Summers voted in opposition.
Rep. Scott Pelath, a Democrat from Michigan City, supports the bill as a temporary victory in the anti-abortion fight. "Given we can't affect Roe vs. Wade," Pelath said after the hearing, "this is an effort to try to reduce the number of abortions, which we can do."
Neither the author of the bill nor any member of the committee that recommended the bill has any education, training or experience in medicine or science. No medical or scientific testimony was presented at the hearing or at the second reading of the bill that would provide evidence that fetal pain exists. Only lobbyists testified at the hearing, including the League of Women Voters (asking the committee to vote against the bill) and anti-abortion organization Indiana Right to Life (asking the committee to vote in favor).
"There were no doctors that testified at the hearing because it was held on a Thursday afternoon and they were obviously all at work," said Rep. Troy Woodruff, who introduced several amendments to the bill. He is also the author of HB 1096, a bill that would ban abortions completely in the state of Indiana except to save the life of a mother. That bill has yet to pass committee.
Harris admitted during the House session that there is no medical or scientific evidence to suggest that a fetus feels pain before 20 weeks of gestation or a way to administer such medication before that time. Indiana law forbids an abortion after 12 weeks of gestation unless the woman's life is in danger and/or the abortion is performed in a hospital. In the past five years, no abortions have been performed after 20 weeks gestation in the state of Indiana.