Last month, Indiana Republicans proposed a measure intended to shut down a Planned Parenthood clinic in the state. The original SB 371 legislation also contained a clause that would have required women taking the RU-486 abortion pill to undergo two invasive transvaginal probes — one before taking the pill, and one after. But ever since the transvaginal ultrasound provision first erupted into controversy, the state’s GOP has been working to scale it back, hoping to assuage public outrage and quietly shepard the rest of the anti-choice legislation’s passage into law.
At first, the Indiana Senate removed the bill’s second ultrasound requirement to ensure its passage. And now, a House committee has removed the first ultrasound requirement too, dropping that aspect of the legislation altogether. According to an Associated Press report, “Indiana Right to Life president Mike Fichter says the group agreed with the decision to drop the ultrasound requirement because debate over it in the state Senate had taken focus away from its goal of tightening regulations on clinics that provide abortions.”
Now that abortion opponents have conceded to public pressure on the invasive forced ultrasound measures, the rest of SB 371 could seem moderate in comparison. But the anti-choice legislation would still have far-reaching consequences for women’s reproductive rights in the state.
Indiana lawmakers are pursuing a popular right-wing strategy for limiting abortion access: Indirectly restricting abortion by imposing costly, unnecessary requirements on abortion clinics with the intention of forcing them to close their doors. SB 371 would force health clinics that prescribe the abortion pill to adhere to the same standards as surgical clinics, even though medication abortions are not actually surgical procedures. It’s a direct attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic that provides the RU-486 to patients seeking to terminate a pregnancy during the first trimester, since that clinic would likely not be able to comply with the new restrictions.
Women’s health advocates consider these type of abortion restrictions to be some of the most dangerous assaults to women’s health — because they can take effect fairly quickly, they effectively limit women’s abortion access, and they often fly under the radar without inspiring the same kind of outrage that other laws, like transvaginal ultrasound requirements, do. That’s exactly why Indiana Republicans are willing to sacrifice mandatory ultrasounds to focus on their real “goal.”