INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A deeply divided Indiana House voted Thursday to uphold rape or incest exceptions in a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state.
The Republican-dominated House voted 61 to 39 to reject an amendment that would have removed those exceptions, with the majority of GOP members wanting them removed.
The House vote showed a similar split among Republicans seen in the state Senate on the rape and incest exceptions, which remained in the bill when an attempt in the Senate last week also failed. no longer removed these exceptions..
Republican Rep. Karen Engleman sponsored the amendment, saying even a child conceived through rape or an incest attack deserves a chance at life.
“The intentional end of human life has no place in medical practice,” Engleman said.
Indiana proposal follows political storm over 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to terminate a pregnancy. The case drew attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child had to travel to Indiana because a new law in Ohio prohibits abortions if heart activity can be detected, usually around six weeks pregnant.
Democratic lawmakers asked Engleman if the girl’s abortion would be banned if her amendment passed. Engleman, who said she had a child while unmarried, said doctors can always determine if the pregnancy threatens a young girl’s life.
Republican leaders said earlier this week they support exceptions for rape and incest. Republican House Speaker Todd Huston and GOP Rep. Wendy McNamara of Evansville, who is sponsoring the bill in the House, both said Monday they favor allowing those exceptions.
McNamara said Monday the law needs to be “conscious of people who have experienced trauma in situations of rape and incest.”
While 39 House Republicans voted Thursday to remove the rape or incest exceptions from the bill, 32 Republicans joined 29 House Democrats in keeping them in the bill. With a likely unified Democratic opposition to the full bill, Republican opponents of the exceptions will need to vote in favor of the bill for passage. This vote could take place on Friday.
The Republican-controlled state Senate narrowly passed its abortion ban on Saturday, 26-20, obtaining the minimum of 26 votes necessary to send it to the Chamber.
The House on Thursday also rejected, largely along party lines, a Democratic proposal that called for a nonbinding question on the ballot in the statewide November election.: “Will abortion remain legal in Indiana?
The proposal came after Kansas voters rejected a measure on Tuesday it would have allowed the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to tighten restrictions on abortion or ban the procedure outright. The vote was the first test of voters’ feelings about abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June.
McNamara spoke out against the ballot issue, pointing out that Indiana law does not provide for statewide referendums. The only such statewide votes are on proposed constitutional amendments after they have been approved by two separately elected legislatures.
Democratic Representative Sue Errington of Muncie argued that Indiana voters want the opportunity to voice their views on the legality of abortion.
“I don’t know if it’ll go the way it did in Kansas,” Errington said. “I hope it does, but I don’t have that guarantee.”
Last week, thousands of protesters from all sides of the abortion issue filled the Statehouse hallways and sidewalks around the building as the Senate debated the bill. More than 100 people testified at a roughly nine-hour House committee hearing on Tuesday. Only a handful of demonstrators followed Thursday’s debate from outside the hemicycle and in its gallery.
A House committee presented its version of the Senate-approved bill on Tuesday. The House bill would allow exceptions to abortion for the physical health and life of the mother, as well as if a fetus is diagnosed with a life-threatening abnormality. It also adjusted the time frame within which abortions would be allowed in cases of rape and incest.
The Senate voted to allow abortions up to 12 weeks after fertilization for those under 16 and eight weeks for those 16 and older. The House version, instead, would create a general ban after 10 weeks after fertilization of abortions in cases of rape and incest. Victims would also no longer be required to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to an attack.
Arleigh Rodgers is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers