Indiana state legislators on Monday convened for a special legislative session to consider a bill than would ban abortion in Indiana. During the session, lawmakers debated the future of reproductive rights and heard testimonies from the public.
Monday marked the first day of the special session, which will last until August 14. Technically, the special session started on July 6, but the legislative process was delayed after the overturn of Roe v. Wade to prepare for an increased agenda. During the session, lawmakers will debate three new bills dealing with reproductive rights, support for pregnant people and their families, and inflation.
During Monday’s meeting, the floor was opened for comments during a public hearing from 1 p.m. to around 5:30 p.m. During the hearing, members of the public, including doctors, pastors and advocates both for and against abortion, took the stand to share their opinions and personal experiences concerning abortion. Members of the Senate Rules Committee were allowed to ask questions after each testimony.
Topics raised for discussion included concerns about vagueness in the bill’s language and how individual doctors could determine when and whether an abortion is necessary.
Senate Bill 1 would prohibit abortions in Indiana unless the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if an abortion was necessary to save a pregnant person’s life. The bill, proposed by Indiana Senate Republicans, would also allow for abortion in the case of fatal fetal anomalies.
Under the bill, to obtain an abortion, the pregnant person would have to provide a physician with an affadavit attesting to the rape or incest. Abortion clinics would also be banned from performing surgical abortions, instead requiring abortion by medication. In this instance, a physician would have to administer abortion-inducing drugs in person, and the person seeking an abortion would have to consume the drug in the presence of the physician.
Lawmakers have said the bill does not affect access to Plan B, any other form of birth control or in vitro fertilization. It also does not restrict access to treatment of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, and it does not criminalize people seeking an abortion.
Currently, abortion is legal in Indiana up to 22 weeks after the last menstrual period. Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Indiana has garnered recent attention after a 10 year old girl traveled to Indiana from Ohio to receive an abortion after being raped.
Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to the Indiana State Library Monday morning to participate in a roundtable discussion with Indiana lawmakers. Harris said the attempt to restrict abortion access has created a healthcare crisis in America.
Harris is conducting a series of meetings in various states to discuss reproductive rights following the overturn of Roe v. Wade. She has visited North Carolina, West Virginia and Pennsylvania this month.
The other two bills slated for debate during the special session would increase support for families and attempt to ease the effects of inflation on Hoosiers.
Senate Bill 2 would create the Hoosier Families First Fund, providing $45 million to fund programs supporting pregnant people and families. It would also increase access to contraception and support for foster care.
Senate Bill 3 would provide relief measures to Hoosiers to help with inflation costs. The bill would provide a six-month reprieve from sales tax on all utility bills and would freeze gas tax rates until June 2023.
According to a tentative schedule released to the press, there will be additional public comment on Senate Bill 1 Tuesday morning, after which lawmakers will take a vote. The Senate Committee on Appropriations will also meet Tuesday to hear Senate Bills 2 and 3. The Senate will adopt committee reports on Wednesday and meet Thursday for a second reading of the bills, followed by a third reading on Friday. A final vote on the bills is expected to be taken then.
In Indiana’s legislative process, bills are read three times — once to introduce the bill and give information, a second time to offer amendments and a third time to undergo final passage or rejection.
The Indiana House of Representatives will consider legislation on August 1 passed by the Senate. Lawmakers have until August 14, when the special session ends, to finish their work. There is no limit to the number of special sessions that can be held. If the abortion bill is passed, it will go into effect Sept. 1.