politics

State representative files 'Protection at Conception' bill



Despite warnings from legislators that other issues would be the focus of the 2017 session, a state representative filed a new bill Wednesday morning that would make abortions completely illegal in Indiana if passed.

Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, filed Senate Bill 1134 with the stated goal being “to preserve the lives of 8,000 Hoosiers every year.”

The bill, dubbed the “Protection at Conception” bill, would leave discretion of how to criminally charge someone who performs an illegal abortion up to a county prosecutor, Nisly said.

The bill would likely be ruled unconstitutional because it contradicts Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that established a woman’s right to an abortion.

The issue of outlawing abortion is more pertinent now than ever because some Republicans hope Roe v. Wade will be overturned with Donald Trump as president.

Periods for Politicians/Periods for Pence, a popular Facebook group that launched last year after Vice President-elect Mike Pence signed a controversial abortion bill later blocked by a federal judge, has already begun garnering opposition for Nisly’s bill on its page.

The page urges people to sign a petition — with 1,241 signatures as of 2 p.m. Thursday — that asks House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to stop the bill. It also asks opponents to call Nisly and let him know the bill is unacceptable.

“I’m usually more upbeat with my morning greetings, but CRIKEY!” a post on the page read. “They’ve been in session for TWO DAYS and already obsessing over our hoo-has.”

Ali Slocum, communications director for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the idea of the bill is certainly problematic. The organization declined to comment further, however, until the bill moves past its draft form and is made public on the Indiana General Assembly’s website.

In November, after Nisly originally mentioned he was planning on filing the legislation, Planned Parenthood released a statement in response.

“Lawmakers who continue to bury their heads in the sand on these reproductive issues are hurting those that they pledged to serve,” said Betty Cockrum, PPINK president and CEO, in the Nov. 17 release.

The draft version of SB 1134 can be found on Nisly’s Twitter, where he’s posted a link to it.

Nisly’s press contact, Zach Weismiller, said the bill will be made public on the IGA website if Bosma assigns it to a committee, but there’s no guarantee yet that a committee will hear the bill.

Amy Schlichter, founder of Hoosiers for Life, the organization that brought the bill idea to Nisly and helped write it, said she’s concerned legislators won’t give the bill the time of day.

Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, have repeatedly emphasized infrastructure and education improvements as main focuses of the 2017 session and have shied away from promoting Nisly’s bill.

To Schlichter, after the intense anti-abortion rhetoric of the election both at the state and national level, this feels like a slap in the face.

Her email has been flooded with support, so much so that she’s had to bring in extra help to sift through the comments, for the new legislation.

Schlichter said many are “screaming that they have to stop abortion,” and she hopes legislators won’t ignore their will.

“We tend to look at these people like they’re something extra special,” Schlichter said. “But they’re just men and women like you and I, and they’ve got to represent their district.”

Dawn Johnsen, an IU law professor, said the bill is unconstitutional, irresponsible, un-American and a waste of money and time.

If passed, the bill would undoubtedly be blocked just like last year’s HEA 1337, said Johnsen, who also served as the head of Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration. Regardless of the legislature’s views on abortion, this bill is not the right way to go about addressing the issue, she said.

“The one that the court blocked from last legislative session also was clearly unconstitutional, but in a way that tried to be at least clever and creative,” Johnsen said.

In response to the unconstitutionailty argument, Nisly said, “Roe v. Wade was wrong.”

“The Supreme Court has been wrong many times in the past,” said Nisly, citing slavery and segregation as examples.

Schlichter said she isn’t fazed by those who say the bill is unconstitutional either.

“Why not fight with everything you have?” Schlichter said. “That argument doesn’t necessarily scare us. It doesn’t concern me at all.”

Johnsen said she sees this bill as a consequence of Trump winning the presidential election.

She fears the new administration and atmosphere in the United States will inspire more extreme bills such as this one.

“I’m just really saddened by what I think is the effect of Donald Trump’s election — emboldening people who are seeking to take away constitutional rights,” Johnsen said.

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