An Indiana Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday that would require doctors who treat individuals for complications stemming from abortions to report detailed information about the patient to the state. The Republican measure is the latest anti-choice proposal by Indiana lawmakers that would burden a person’s right to obtain an abortion.
Under the bill, which was approved by the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 6-1, doctors, abortion clinics, and hospitals must report information to the State Department of Health if a patient experiences complications ranging from major to common medical issues. These include renal failure, cardiac arrest, and hemorrhaging, as well as depression, anxiety, and sleeping disorders.
Supporters of the Indiana Senate legislation said the aim is to protect women’s health. But it’s not that simple.
Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, told ThinkProgress in an email that the bill’s focus on complications can make it seem as if abortions are unsafe, even though complication rates from abortions are extremely low, occurring less than a quarter of a percent of the time, according to a 2014 study by the University of California at San Francisco.
“It appears that these bills have little to do with health and safety, but rather are more political and are attempts to make abortion seem dangerous,” Nash added.
The bill also draws false parallels between abortion and mental health issues, Nash said.
“What we know about mental health and abortion is that the best predictor of mental health after an abortion is the patient’s mental health before the abortion,” Nash said. “[T]he risk of mental health problems is no greater if a woman who has an unintended pregnancy has an elective first-trimester abortion than if she carries the pregnancy to term.”
The measure further requires individuals obtaining self-administered abortions via the abortion pill to sign a form confirming that they were informed of the manufacturers’ instructions regarding the drug, a provision that Nash said “could make women afraid of seeking care for fear of prosecution.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, there are currently 27 states that require some type of reporting of abortion complications. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in this type of reporting, Nash said, likely stemming from the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case that struck down a Texas anti-abortion law.
“The decision emphasized the importance of considering evidence and data on the impact of a restriction,” Nash said. “In that case Texas offered virtually no evidence that the facility regulations and admitting privileges improved women’s health. One way abortion opponents might attempt to build an evidence base [is] to try to show there are complications from an abortion.”
The Indiana measure is the most recent in a series of bills introduced by state lawmakers aimed at curtailing abortion rights. In 2017, the Indiana House passed legislation that would require abortion providers to give individuals seeking the abortion pill information about reversing the process. “This is for those who take that first step and regret it,” said Rep. Peggy Mayfield (R-Martinsville), according to the IndyStar.
Abortion restrictions banning the procedure if it was sought due to fetal genetic anomalies and requiring aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated were signed into law in 2016 by Vice President Mike Pence, who was then the governor of Indiana. A federal judge permanently blocked the laws the following year, ruling that they were unconstitutional. Indiana has appealed that decision to an appellate court.
“This is nothing but Big Brother state government sticking their nose into an area of a person’s life that they have no business knowing about,” Sen. Tim Linane (D-Anderson), the sole vote against the Indiana bill, said, according to the Associated Press. The bill now moves to the full Indiana Senate for consideration.