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Indiana likely to cut off abortion access in special session after U.S. Supreme Court ruling

Exterior image of the U.S. Supreme Court, with an American flag in the foreground.
Lauren Chapman
/
IPB News
Indiana Statehouse Republicans aren’t saying how far they’ll go in banning abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that clears the path for such laws.

Indiana appears poised to force thousands of people to give birth each year in a state that ranks among the worst for infant and maternal mortality.

That's after the U.S. Supreme Court Friday overturned its abortion rights precedents, clearing a path for states to fully ban abortions.

Indiana lawmakers, for weeks, planned to call a special session to further restrict abortion access in the state. A special session is already set for July 6 to send inflation relief to Hoosiers. And legislators are expected to act on abortion then.

State lawmakers’ reaction

Indiana Statehouse Republicans aren’t saying how far they’ll go in banning abortions. For many, the question seems to be not whether lawmakers will ban abortion, but whether they’ll allow exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the pregnant person is at risk.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said the policy should include restricting abortion rights and caring for “the health and lives of mothers and their babies.”

"We certainly realize this is an extremely contentious and potentially polarizing issue. We will proceed with this conversation in a civil and substantive way so that all sides have the opportunity to be heard as we chart a course for Hoosiers," Bray said.

House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said he “strongly” believes lawmakers should couple their abortion ban with expanded resources and services for pregnant people and their children, both before and after birth.

Gov. Eric Holcomb was far less specific.

"I have been clear in stating I am pro-life. We have an opportunity to make progress in protecting the sanctity of life, and that’s exactly what we will do," he said.

Much like Indiana’s federal GOP delegation, other state Republican lawmakers celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision Friday.

Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) said in a statement the decision “begins a new chapter in our nation’s history.”

“By overturning Roe, the justices are returning abortion policymaking to the states,” Brown said. “Hoosier elected officials are better positioned to set abortion policy than unelected judges, as we are answerable to voters and they are not.”

Indiana Democrats responded to the news almost immediately following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Terri Austin (D-Anderson) and House Floor Leader Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) released a statement saying "protecting women’s reproductive rights is protecting women and their futures."

House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) echoed those sentiments in his own statement.

"Put plainly, access to abortion has allowed women and families to plan their futures on their terms. It’s given women freedom, economic mobility and safety. Now, all of that is under threat," GiaQuinta said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said in statement, Indiana already has the second highest rate of child abuse and the highest rate of child deaths from abuse in the nation. He said state is unprepared for the consequences of restricting abortion access.

“This ruling will plunge us back into a society where the most personal aspect of a woman’s life will be at the mercy of her state legislature,” he said.

Democrats also expressed skepticism that Republicans will, as Huston suggested, expand resources for pregnant people and parents, considering - for instance - that Republicans refused to provide basic workplace accommodations for pregnant people just a couple of years ago.

Statehouse Democrats said the legislature should be focused on policies such as improving access to birth control.

Top Democratic, Republican state officials' reaction

Indiana Democratic Party leaders said the days are now numbered for people to have access to safe and legal abortions in the state.

Indianapolis City-County Counselor Ali Brown said she’s full of “righteous anger.” Brown had a difficult first pregnancy that made it so her life is in danger if she tries to have another child.

“If I get pregnant … I will have to leave the state to seek an abortion. And I will, because my child deserves a mother who is alive,” Brown said.

But Brown and other Democratic leaders said they know that won’t be possible for all pregnant people.

In a statement celebrating the Supreme Court decision, U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) seemed to leave the door open to something less than a full ban. He said solutions should include “support” for pregnant people and parents.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) was more direct, saying in a statement he wants solutions that, in his words, “defend the unborn and save lives.” Such language from anti-abortion advocates often ignores the risk to pregnant people’s lives when abortion access is cut off.

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) called for Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana legislature to convene a special session to pass legislation outlawing abortion in Indiana.

Banks called the decision “joyful” in a statement sent out Friday morning, and said he would be celebrating with his wife and daughters.

That mirrors a statement from U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown), who said in a statement, "Our prayers have been answered."

READ MORE: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ending right to abortion upheld for decades

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues.

Anti-abortion, abortion advocates

Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai‘i, Indiana, Kentucky said in a statement the decision's consequences will fall largely on people who already face systemic barriers to health care due to racism and discrimination.

"We will keep fighting with everything we’ve got to ensure that everyone can access the care you need to control your body and your life. I want to be clear: Planned Parenthood will always be here to help you get the care you need," said CEO Rebecca Gibron.

LaKimba DeSadier is the Indiana State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. She said Planned Parenthood’s clinics will still be open, even if a ban takes effect.

“We have a patient navigator team that is ready to work every step, to help find appointments and connect financial resources, logistic support, out-of-state travel, if necessary,” DeSadier said.

Whole Woman's Health provides something similar. The health care organization operates a clinic that provides abortions in South Bend. Its "Abortion Wayfinder" program can help people schedule appointments at clinics still able to operate freely, schedule virtual appointments in other states and even plan travel to out-of-state clinics while covering all or part of that cost.

Amy Hagstrom Miller is president of Whole Woman’s Health. She said she’s “heartbroken,” “outraged” and “disgusted.”

“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the damage this will cause in the lives of millions of people and for generations to come,” Miller said.

Miller indicated that her organization's Indiana clinic would likely have to shut down if abortion is banned. She also said her group will look at expanding services in Illinois. But she acknowledged such efforts have limits.

"There is no way that we can ban abortion in almost half the states in this country and expect the remaining half of the states to accommodate the need and the desire for all the people that are banned from abortion in some states to get seen," Miller said.

Mike Fichter is president of Indiana Right to Life, the state’s foremost anti-abortion group. To the question of whether lawmakers would carve out exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the pregnant person is at risk, Fichter largely downplayed those cases as rare.

“Our stance has always been that every life – every Hoosier deserves to be born, regardless of the means of someone’s conception,” Fichter said.

Some states have trigger laws in place, in the event of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, so abortion would become illegal immediately. But Indiana legislators did not pass such a law during their 2022 legislative session.

DeSadier insisted that the fight for legal abortion access is not over.

"There's a lot of folks in Indiana that want to have access, that believe in access," DeSadier said. "So, now we have to hold our elected officials accountable - not only during special session but as we move into the election in November."

This story has been updated.

WFIU/TIU's Bente Bouthier, George Hale and Cathy Knapp contributed to this story. Indiana Public Broadcasting's Lauren Chapman also contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri.