Indiana lawmakers are currently advancing a particularly harsh anti-abortion bill that’s failing to win support even among some Republicans in the state.
Under HB 1337, which both chambers of the legislature passed this week, women would be prohibited from seeking an abortion if they discover their fetus has genetic abnormalities. Abortion providers would be responsible for burying or cremating “fetal remains.” And donating fetal tissue — an area of scientific research that’s come under fire thanks to a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood — would be classified as a felony crime.
According to a Planned Parenthood statement, the legislation is “particularly cruel in that it’s designed to shame and demean a woman who is facing tragic circumstances with a lethal fetal anomaly.” Essentially, a grieving pregnant woman grappling with the news that her unborn child won’t survive outside the womb would be required to receive information dissuading her from ending the doomed pregnancy.
If HB 1337 becomes law, Indiana will become just the second state in the nation to ban abortions based on fetal abnormality — part of a larger strategy to discern why women may be choosing to end a pregnancy. North Dakota also has this restriction on the books.
Reproductive rights proponents point out that women need to be able to make difficult pregnancy decisions about whether they can adequately care for a child with severe disabilities. They say that restrictions in this area are unnecessary, unenforceable, and seek to drive an offensive wedge between the abortion rights community and the disability rights community.
Some Republicans in Indiana appear to agree.
“The bill does nothing to save innocent lives. There’s no education, there’s no funding. It’s just penalties,” Rep. Sharon Negele, a Republican who has sponsored anti-abortion legislation in the past, said this week at a hearing regarding HB 1337.
Another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Sean Eberhart, said he decided to vote against the bill after discussing it with his wife. He said she didn’t agree with the legislation even though she’s “as pro-life as they come.”
“Today is a perfect example a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women,” Eberhart said. “We need to quit pretending we know what’s best for women and their health care needs.”
Several Republicans in the legislature also took issue with the way HB 1337 advanced. According to the Associated Press, Republican leaders in the House used a procedural measure to rush a vote on an updated version of the bill without giving lawmakers additional time to make changes.
As the national abortion landscape becomes increasingly extreme, other conservative state lawmakers have also spoken out against efforts to restrict women’s rights. Oklahoma Rep. Doug Cox (R), for example, has made national headlines for repeatedly criticizing his party’s relentless focus in this area. “This bill takes the ability to control their destiny away from women,” Cox said in response to a 2014 bill seeking to restrict emergency contraception. “But that’s what we do in the Republican Party these days.”
HB 1337 now awaits the governor’s approval. A spokesperson for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) stopped short of promising he will sign the bill into law, but noted that Pence is “a strong supporter of the right to life” who will “give this legislation thoughtful consideration once it reaches his desk.”