The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, ending federal protection for abortions and making abortion access a state-by-state issue. Abortion currently remains legal in Indiana, but the state may be set to restrict abortion access in the coming weeks.
Indiana has a history of restrictions on abortion, and leading lawmakers have indicated they’ll support adding more.
Republican legislators — who hold a supermajority in both the Senate and House of Representatives — signed a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb March 8 asking him to call a special session if Roe v. Wade was overturned rather than waiting until the regular legislative period.
Holcomb called a special session, scheduled to begin July 6, in order to take action on his plan to return more than $1 billion to taxpayers to combat inflation. However, in a press release Friday, Holcomb said lawmakers are expected to discuss abortion restrictions as well.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is clear, and it is now up to the states to address this important issue,” Holcomb wrote. “We’ll do that in short order in Indiana.”
Special sessions can last up to 40 calendar days, meaning lawmakers could formulate plans to further restrict or ban abortion within weeks if they choose. Specifics remain largely unknown about what exactly new abortion legislation could include.
What lawmakers are saying
Indiana code states that “childbirth is preferred, encouraged and supported over abortion.”
In his Friday statement, Holcomb stated that he is anti-abortion.
“We have an opportunity to make progress in protecting the sanctity of life, and that’s exactly what we will do,” he wrote.
Other lawmakers have also expressed their intent to tighten abortion laws in the special session. Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said in a statement that, with the Supreme Court’s final decision in hand, Indiana lawmakers can begin to formulate policy that “protects unborn children and cares for the health and lives of mothers and their babies.” Bray said the Senate recognizes abortion access as a sensitive issue, and that they will proceed in a civil way, giving all sides the chance to be heard.
Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, said in a statement that she looks forward to returning to Indianapolis for a special session.
“It is our duty to empower women, affirm life and protect the smallest among us,” she said.
Democratic state legislators have condemned the decision, saying it poses risks to lives and rights.
Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton released a statement Friday calling the chain of events appalling and expressing support for local abortion providers.
“As Mayor of Bloomington, I pledge to fight alongside our Planned Parenthood, All Options Pregnancy Center, and other partners supporting the rights and choices of the Bloomington women and families we are proud to serve,” Hamilton wrote.
Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, released a statement over email saying the ruling is not a ‘pro-life’ victory, but that it would cause people to lose their lives because of risky or unwanted pregnancies.
“If we truly believed in justice, in freedom, we would let women make their own decisions without fear of state retribution,” Yoder said.
Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, told the IDS he believes the state will likely outlaw abortion in the upcoming special session. He said the decision opens the door for more actions like limiting access to birth control and the freedom to marry.
Abortion still legal in Indiana
Although the future of abortion in Indiana is uncertain, pregnant people can currently still receive safe and legal abortions.
7,756 abortions took place in Indiana in 2020 — the most recent year for which data is available — according to the Indiana Department of Health’s Terminated Pregnancy Report.
There are seven abortion clinics in Indiana: located in Bloomington, Indianapolis, Lafayette, Merrillville and South Bend.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced Friday that Indianapolis will not prosecute abortion cases if legislators criminalize the procedure. Planned Parenthood told the Indianapolis Star their doors would remain open for care, even if abortion access is restricted or banned.
Restrictions on abortion
Questions remain about whether, or to what extent, new abortion legislation would allow exceptions for cases of rape, incest or medical emergency. There are currently some restrictions and requirements placed on getting an abortion in Indiana.
Currently, an abortion must be performed within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, or 22 weeks after a pregnant person’s last menstrual cycle.
Minors seeking an abortion must obtain consent from a parent or guardian. If they cannot, they have the option to petition a judge to prove abortion is in their best interest.
Those seeking an abortion must also receive counseling at least 18 hours before the procedure about fetal development, possible complications and alternatives to abortion. This means a person would have to travel to a clinic two times to obtain an abortion. An ultrasound must also be performed, and providers must give the person a chance to view the ultrasound image.
Public funds cannot be used to support those seeking an abortion unless the pregnant person’s life is in danger.
Telemedicine abortions, such as a doctor guiding a patient over video call as they take abortion-inducing medication, are not allowed. Indiana also bans abortion by medication at 10 weeks.
Indiana has passed several restrictions on abortion over the last decade, with multiple later being blocked. Most of these laws centered around regulating abortion rather than whether or not to allow it.
Senate Bill 404 attempted to put restrictions on people under 18 seeking abortions. SB404 would have required judges to notify parents about a minor getting an abortion unless the judge decided it was in the minor’s best interests not to. The bill was signed into law in 2017, but a federal appeals court blocked the law with a preliminary injunction in 2019.
In 2019, lawmakers passed a bill prohibiting dilation and evacuation abortions, the most common second-trimester abortion procedure, except for when the mother’s life is at risk. This law is also currently not in effect due to preliminary injunction.
Lawmakers passed another bill in 2021 requiring abortion providers to share information about progesterone, a drug some anti-abortion groups say can reverse medically-induced abortions. Abortion rights groups filed a lawsuit arguing there’s no reliable science behind the law. This law was also put on hold.
A bill to ban abortion was filed earlier this year but died in committee.
Reactions to the ruling
Pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates alike have gathered around the state to express opposition to and support of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Demonstrators gathered at the Monroe County Courthouse to protest for abortion access. IU students and other community members told the IDS they were concerned about the future of minorities and losing other rights.
Saturday saw protests at the statehouse in Indianapolis. Over 1,000 abortion rights activists rallied for several hours starting at 11 a.m., and over 200 anti-abortion advocates also rallied for almost two hours, the IndyStar reports.
61% of adult Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a Pew Research poll from March 2022. The most recent poll conducted on abortion views in Indiana found that 43% of adults in Indiana believed abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 51% believed it should be illegal in all or most cases.
The Indianapolis Party for Socialism and Liberation will be hosting an emergnecy protest at the Monroe County Courthouse on Monday, June 27 at 3 p.m.