HANCOCK COUNTY – Indiana’s new law on abortion restrictions represents a balanced approach to the issue, according to state lawmakers representing the county.
Indiana last week became the first state in the nation to approve abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as the Republican governor quickly signed a near-total ban on the procedure shortly after legislators approved it.
The ban, which takes effect Sept. 15, includes some exceptions. Abortions would be permitted in cases of rape and incest, before 10-weeks post-fertilization; to protect the life and physical health of the mother; and if a fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly.
Under the bill, abortions can be performed only in hospitals or outpatient centers owned by hospitals, meaning all abortion clinics would lose their licenses. A doctor who performs an illegal abortion or fails to file required reports must also lose their medical license.
Gov. Eric Holcomb’s approval came after the Indiana Senate approved the ban 28-19 and the state House of Representatives advanced it 62-38. All three state legislators with districts that include Hancock County voted in favor of the bill.
State Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, called the bill one of the most divisive issues he’s worked on in the past decade. He serves on the Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee, which heard hours of testimony on the subject.
“Really it came down to there was just so much polarization that the language in the bill that was passed is probably the only language that was going to pass,” Crider said. “From my perspective, I’ve been pro-life without question from the beginning, and I was looking for a solution that would recognize the kinds of horrible situations people encounter around rape and incest and fatal fetal abnormalities and things like that, but at the same time trying to ensure that abortion is not just being used as a form of birth control, that it’s being used as minimally as possible.”
State Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, said in a statement that the law protects Hoosier families, mothers and “the sanctity of life.”
“I believe the bill, including the exceptions, is a thoughtful and compassionate approach to protecting babies in the womb and pregnant women,” Cherry said, adding the action was coupled with directing $74 million toward boosting infant and maternal health, along with support for foster and adoptive families. “I fully expect these discussions to continue as we head into the next legislative session, and evaluate our state’s needs and progress. I believe that Hoosiers across the state have been clear that they value life at all stages and their elected representatives followed through with that commitment.”
State Rep. Chris Jeter, R-Fishers, whose district includes part of northwestern Hancock County, noted that the issue draws many points of view.
“I think the final version was a balanced approach that sets Indiana as a state that values life and recognizes that there’s two lives at stake here that have to be cared about and thought about,” he said of the bill.
Jeter supported attempts in the House to remove exceptions for rape, incest and fatal fetal abnormalities, although those tries failed.
“I struggled to choose between two lives,” Jeter said. “I just didn’t feel qualified to do that.”
He said he recognizes that most state Republican legislators felt those exceptions were worthy, adding in that regard the result reflects a balanced view.
“I was happy to support the final version with those in there,” Jeter said of the exceptions.
Recently voters in Kansas rejected a measure that would have allowed the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten abortion restrictions or ban the procedure outright. There were attempts in the Indiana Senate to approach abortion as a public question as well, but they failed.
Crider said that path isn’t how the Indiana General Assembly typically handles matters. Jeter said voters’ voices are already heard through the leaders they select to represent them.
“I think in a lot of ways every decision we make is a referendum,” Jeter said. “We’re up for election every two years (in the House), and voters have a lot of opportunities to give feedback on our positions.”
Linda Genrich, chair of the Hancock County Democratic Central Committee, called the bill a form of government overreach unpopular with Hoosiers across the state, including in Hancock County.
“In the wake of the federal overturning of Roe v. Wade and now the subsequent legislation passed in Indiana, access to abortion has now been made against the law and women from all political sides are coming together to fight these terrible decisions that will affect all of us,” Genrich said in a statement. “A politician has no business being in the doctors’ office with a woman and her physician. This violation of privacy is already beginning to create an economic panic across our state, and Indiana will lose a lot of great people due to unnecessary and archaic laws.”
She added Hancock County residents living at or below the poverty line struggling to make ends meet who will have to continue a pregnancy against their personal choice will require more of social services.
“These issues affect us all, regardless of gender,” she said. “Either it is our own family struggling or someone we know. There are enough hardships in our world right now, it is unfathomable that our elected representatives would want to add to it and at such a personal level.”
Genrich disagreed that the exceptions outlined in the law represent a compromise and allowance for a broad range of health issues.
“They are asking Hoosiers to compromise with extremist organizations and an agenda that does not reflect the will of voters,” she said. “Women’s rights are human rights and the government should never have a say in what happens between anyone with female anatomy and their doctor.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.