INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN) — Indiana lawmakers reconvened the special session Friday for votes on major pieces of legislation.
Senate Bill 1 on abortion passed in a 62 to 38 vote. It now heads back to the Senate. The vote followed four hours of discussion and a last-ditch procedural move by Democrats to indefinitely postpone the measure before the final vote. The motion failed, setting the stage for the final vote.
Before the SB1 vote, numerous representatives spoke in support and opposition of the bill, which has been described as a near-total ban on abortion in Indiana.
The measure passed by the slimmest margin in the Senate during a rate Saturday session to make its way to the House.
House lawmakers amended the legislation to define the mother’s health exception, changing the language to say “when reasonable medical judgment dictates that performing the abortion is necessary to prevent any serious health risk to the pregnant woman or to save the pregnant woman’s life.”
On Thursday, the House voted down attempts to strip the bill of rape and incest exceptions. The House also added an exception for a lethal fetal anomaly. A proposed amendment to scrap that exception failed, as did an amendment that would’ve meant an outright ban on abortion in the state.
Before the highly charged abortion vote, the House first took up the inflation relief plan, Senate Bill 2. The measure now includes a $200 taxpayer refund, establishes the $45 million Hoosier Families First Fund and caps the gas tax at 29.5 cents.
It also eliminates the state sales tax credit on children’s diapers and increases the adoption tax credit.
The measure pays down some debt from the state teacher pension fund. Lawmakers reduced the tax refund from $225 to $200 as part of a compromise between the House and Senate. The Senate’s inflation relief plan did not include direct payments.
During Friday’s session, Rep. Gregory Porter questioned whether the bill was enough. He said he would reluctantly vote yes and hoped some of his concerns could be worked out in a conference committee. His biggest criticism came from any cut in the gas tax, something he and his caucus had pushed for months.
He also reminded the Republican supermajority that lawmakers represent “all Hoosiers” and not just those who voted for them.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, who voted against the bill, criticized the amount of the refund given the size of the state’s surplus. He believes the state could’ve been more generous with the refund.
Despite the criticism, the House voted to pass it by a 93-6 margin, showing it had broad support among lawmakers in both parties. It now heads to the Senate.
House lawmakers then began discussion on Senate Bill 1, the abortion measure.
In discussion of the bill before the vote, several Democrats spoke in opposition of it. Rep. Cherrish Pryor said the bill was about “forcing birth” and “having control.” She noted that the chamber had failed in bolstering pregnancy accommodations. She feared it would have an outsized impact on minorities in the state.
Pryor also criticized her fellow lawmakers for failing to eliminate the sales tax on breastfeeding supplies.
Rep. Chris Campbell, a Democrat, called the bill an “egregious overstep in government intrusion” that signaled a “dark future for those of us who believe in a free society.” She urged her colleagues to let women choose and trust medical professors to do what they believe is necessary.
“There is still a chance for us to stop this attack on women,” Campbell said.
Rep. Carolyn Jackson described the measure as “cruel” and expressed concerns that businesses and health care professionals would leave the state.
On the Republican side, Rep. Matt Hostettler said much work had gone into the measure. He asked for a clarification about the exception for a fetal anomaly. He also requested additional information about the elimination of abortion clinics and how the legislation would affect facilities that perform the procedure.
Hostettler questioned the rape and incest provision and whether it would lead to any criminal investigations of rape and incest cases. An outraged Hostettler railed against the idea that pregnant Hoosiers aren’t forced to report cases to police.
He said he believed the measure was unconstitutional and urged his colleagues to vote it down.
An impassioned Rep. Ann Vermilion described herself as a “lifelong, proud Republican” with a strong belief in limited government. She said she was pro-life, pro-women and pro-choice. She said no government should take away a woman’s access to medical care.
She expressed concerns about medical professionals who may choose to leave to state or decline job offers if the bill passed. She said she would be “horrified” to have another religion imposed on her. She also pointed out the irony that the same lawmakers who protested measures like mask mandates would impose regulations on women.
“I think that the Lord’s promise is of grace and kindness,” she said. She suggested people should stop calling themselves “pro-life” if they have a priority list on life.
She also took aim at outside observers who’ve criticized Indiana lawmakers, whom she said had made a genuine effort at fairness and had deeply considered the legislation. The special session has been emotionally draining, Vermilion said, and has moved too quickly.
Rep. Joanna King, a Republican, suggested the legislation involved the “most vulnerable” among us and walked other lawmakers through the development of a baby after conception. It’s her belief that “abortion is the intentional taking of a person’s life.”
“I believe in the sanctity of life and I believe in life at conception,” King said, adding that the legislature had a duty to support life and urging her colleagues to support SB1.
Rep. John Jacob, a Republican, said there could be no compromise on this measure. He planned to vote against because it was “always right to do right and always wrong to do wrong.”
Jacob wants a complete end to abortion with no exceptions whatsoever.
“I will not be pressured to compromise in any way, shape or form,” he said, calling SB1 a “weak and pathetic” piece of legislation.
He planned to vote against the measure, although he conceded that his motives for doing so were completely divergent from those of his Democratic colleagues. He suggested women’s bodies weren’t their own and described abortion as “evil” and “barbaric.” He suggested future societies would look back on abortion with the same disdain as slavery. He equated abortion to murder multiple times.
Jacob said, with Roe v. Wade overturned, the anti-abortion movement had its chance.
“Yet you failed again,” Jacob said, addressing both Republicans and Democrats in the chamber.
He said the House could kill the bill and send it back to conference committee so lawmakers could call for a complete abortion ban. He urged his colleagues to “repent and turn from your evil ways and to protect all the preborn.”
Rep. Sue Errington, a Democrat, expressed concerns that SB1 is a one-size-fits-all solution even though every woman’s situation is different. She said she’d lived during the time before Roe v. Wade and that the measure would ban only safe, legal abortions.
Rep. Renee Pack, a Democrat called the “obsession” and focus on women’s bodies “bizarre.”
“This bill has been pushed through in the blink of an eye and I believe we’ve gone about this the wrong way,” she said.
Pack, who served in the Army, said she had to make a choice between her military career and her family in 1990. She took exception with colleagues in the House who called her a “murderer” for her decision.
“I am not a murderer,” she said. “My sisters are not murderers. We are pro-choice. That is what we are.”
She said the measure would stop women from having safe, legal abortions in Indiana. That could lead women to have illegal abortions that would put their lives in jeopardy, she said.
Rep. Jeff Ellington, a Republican, said he believed the Roe v. Wade decision was wrong when it was decided. He characterized Friday’s decision as “not an easy vote” and said he supported an exception that protected the life of the mother.
Rep. Elizabeth Rowray, a Republican, said the extreme parts of the political spectrum had pulled the nation apart. While she adamantly supported abortion rights when she was younger, she changed her stance after having her first ultrasound.
She said the bill doesn’t go far enough in helping mothers. Still, she believes the measure is an attempt at a compromise and planned to support it.
Rep. Maureen Bauer, a Democrat, took the floor in a tearful speech in which she said Hoosiers wanted their voices heard by the General Assembly.
She believed lawmakers were imposing their religion on others, something she called “un-American.” She also took issue with the notion that some in the chamber believed women would lie about being raped “just to get an abortion.”
Bauer wanted Hoosiers “free from government overreach.”
“We have come a long way as women, but as of right now, women in Indiana have the freedom of choice. I’m asking you not to roll back the clock,” she said.
Bauer said the legislation was not well-planned. She believes it should be voted down instead of being rushed through the special session.
Rep. Brad Barrett, a Republican, urged his colleagues to vote in favor of the legislation. He acknowledged the final product doesn’t match his personal beliefs but believes lawmakers worked hard on the bill.
Barrett said he believes lawmakers listened genuinely to testimony from medical professionals and had been crafted to allow doctors to practice medicine.
Rep. Gregory Porter, a Democrat, said the bill would have economic consequences and will set the state back, making Indiana unattractive as a home for some women. He believes the legislature could have done more to help Hoosiers and their families.
“Do you want to chase away women? Do you want to chase away college grads?” Porter asked. “Do you want to cripple our business?”
He suggested those who voted in favor of it “want to turn back the clock.”
Rep. John Young said the bill included $81 million to support families and mothers. He believes the bill will make society better and has provisions to prevent women and doctors from facing criminal charges.
Young said the legislation should have been under discussion for “the last 50 years.” He acknowledged it was imperfect and said the state had a “compelling interest to protect life.” He did say the legislation would face legal challenges, although he “didn’t know” on what grounds those challenges would be successful.
Rep. Rita Fleming, a Democrat, said most abortions wouldn’t be needed if the state put more resources into birth control and contraception measures. A retired OB-GYN, she described herself as “pro-life” and said she couldn’t support the measure in its current form.
Rep. Matt Pierce, a Democrat, believes the bill will have some unintended consequences, especially when it comes to doctors providing care in a complicated pregnancy. Instead of determining care, they’re going to have to consider the new state provisions, perhaps delaying care and harming the woman and baby, he said.
Pierce is worried the law will create a two-tiered society in which those with the financial means to do so could leave the state to get an abortion and return to the state, while those without financial means would not have the option, potentially putting them at risk if they decided to have an illegal abortion.
Rep. Cindy Ledbetter, a Republican, said it’s in the state’s interest to pay for contraception and women’s healthcare services. She believes that will help improve the child and mother mortality rate. She urged the chamber to listen to the women who are among its members and said she could not vote in favor of the bill.
Sen. Matt Lehman said he believed Senate Bill 1 was a “good bill” and acknowledged the state had more work to do in caring for women and children. He said the measure would protect those who are most vulnerable and incapable of speaking on their own behalf.
Rep. Carey Hamilton, a Democrat, characterized the bill as “extreme” and said it wasn’t a real compromise–although it “might be a compromise within the supermajority Republican caucus.”
“This is simply not a pro-life bill,” she said, adding that the economic fallout could be severe. “Bad headlines are not good for business. Bad policies are not good for business.”
Rep. Justin Moed, a Democrat, made a procedural motion to suspend further action on SB1. It was voted down 27-70. After the motion’s defeat, Rep. Wendy McNamara, bill’s sponsor in the House, made closing remarks on the bill to set up the vote.
She said the bill provided to support to mothers and babies and “exemplifies the value of human life.”
The Senate, which delayed its planned Thursday session, is scheduled to meet Friday afternoon. The session was set for 1:30 p.m., although the Senate went into recess as the House session continued. State senators will discuss House Bill 1001, which is its version of an inflation relief package. The Senate added a concurrence vote on SB2, the economic measure that passed in the House earlier Friday.