Indiana became the first state in the country after the fall of Roe v. Wade to pass sweeping limits on abortion access, after Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed into law Friday a bill that constitutes a near-total ban 0n the procedure.
Supporters of abortion rights crowded into the corridors of the Indiana Statehouse throughout the day as lawmakers cast their votes, some holding signs that read “You can only ban safe abortions” and “Abortion is health care.” Moments after the vote, some protesters hugged and others stood stunned before the crowd broke out into chants of “We will not stop.”
In a statement released after signing the bill, Holcomb said he had “stated clearly” following the overturn of Roe that he would be willing to support antiabortion legislation. He also highlighted the “carefully negotiated” exceptions in the law, which he said address “some of the unthinkable circumstances a woman or unborn child might face.”
Before settling on the exceptions, Republican legislators disagreed on how far the law should go, with some GOP members siding with Democrats in demanding that abortion be legal in cases of rape and incest.
The vote followed days of testimony from citizens and a debate that grew heated at times. “Sir, I am not a murderer,” state Rep. Renee Pack (D) said in the chamber after state Rep. John Jacob (R), a staunch abortion opponent who wanted exceptions for rape removed, described the procedure as murder.
Abortion rights organizations quickly rebuked Friday’s decision. Alexis McGill Johnson, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the vote “was cruel and will prove devastating for pregnant people and their families in Indiana and across the whole region.” “Hoosiers didn’t want this,” Johnson said.
In a statement, antiabortion group Indiana Right to Life opposed the exceptions and said the new law did not go far enough in cutting abortion access.
The push by Indiana Republicans to restrict abortion access stands in stark contrast with the overwhelming support for it by voters in Kansas, where an attempt to strip away abortion protections was voted down this week in another traditionally conservative state. That victory is likely to boost the Democratic Party’s hope that the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade will energize voters ahead of the midterm elections.
In Indiana, Democratic legislators described the Kansas vote as a warning to their Republican colleagues to consider the potential fallout from voters.
Unlike many of its predominantly conservative neighboring states in the Midwest, Indiana did not have a “trigger law” on the books that would immediately prohibit abortion when Roe was overturned. Because the procedure had been legal in the state up to 22 weeks, Indiana became the destination for many seeking to terminate their pregnancies.
Cutting off this “critical access point” may force people to travel “hundreds of miles or carry pregnancies against their will,” the American Civil Liberties Union said.
Most recently, a 10-year-old rape victim had to travel to Indianapolis for an abortion after she was denied one in her home state of Ohio. The case prompted outrage among abortion rights proponents, was criticized by President Biden and drew international attention.
The OB/GYN who provided the care, Caitlin Bernard, has faced threats and harassment. Her legal team is looking into filing a defamation suit against Indiana’s attorney general, whose office is investigating how the abortion case was handled.
Kim Bellware and Ellen Francis contributed to this report.