While the Supreme Court heard a case on Texas' restrictive abortion laws this March, Indiana's legislature was in the process of approving an abortion bill that is arguably worse. Like Texas' HB 2 law, Indiana's HB 1337 bill also restricts women's financial access to abortions, but in order to do so, its capitalizes on ridiculous guilt-tripping. Indiana may be seen as a quiet state in the Midwest, but its gross disregard for women's reproductive rights is among the worst in the nation. The state also ranks low in the promotion of social equality within the LGBT community.
Salon's Bob Cesca asked his readers how Indiana's HB 1337 law went unnoticed by social media and women's rights activists for this long. Now, he points out, Governor Mike Pence only has to sign the bill in order for it to be enacted. The states' legislature, dominated by conservatives, passed it last week without making so much as a blip on the national radar.
The law stipulates a number of disturbing provisions. According to The Indianapolis Star, the law prohibits a woman from aborting a fetus if it's projected to have a disability, such as Down Syndrome. In the lawmakers' point of view, rejecting a fetus because it has a life-threatening disability is synonymous with rejecting it because of its gender or race — which is also forbidden by law.
Enforcing that provision, however, would involve proving a woman's motive for seeking out an abortion. Indiana is the second state in the nation after North Dakota to pass a bill that allows the state to refuse a woman an abortion if she doesn't have what the state considers to be a "good enough" reason. If a doctor grants an abortion because the mother's life is in danger, for example, he or she could potentially be sued for wrongful death.
Furthermore, the law makes it exceedingly difficult for women to pay for an abortion. In addition to the cost of the procedure itself, women will be required by law to arrange a funeral or cremation of the aborted fetus. This even applies to fetuses that have yet to develop and are indistinguishable colonies of cells. Even more shockingly, the law forces women to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus that they themselves possess, no less than 18 hours before the process begins. In other words, Indiana might gain the "right" to exercise control over a woman's body for the purpose of intimidating her.
In essence, both Texas' HB 2 and Indiana's HB 1337 restrict women's access to abortions. Both, for example, require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. However, their strategies are much different. Unlike Indiana, Texas restricts abortion access by making it extremely difficult for abortion clinics to meet the state's requirements. If HB 2 is enacted, nearly all of the state's 40 or so abortion clinics are projected to close because they will be unable to meet the standards of an "ambulatory surgical center," essentially a mini hospital. Texas' controversial law is attacking the facilities that provide abortions to women, but Indiana is inconspicuously targeting the women themselves. Elizabeth Nash, Senior State Issues Associate for reproductive rights group the Guttmacher Institute, believes it's highly possible that the bill will face strong constitutional challenges if it is passed, saying in a statement:
What the Supreme Court has said is that the states cannot ban abortions before viability, and these potentially would ban some abortions before viability. The court has never said that the woman has to give a reason for seeking an abortion, so these types of bans are in conflict with the Supreme Court. But we don't see much in the way of litigation around these cases.
Even certain Republican legislators from the state have even expressed opposition to the bill. For example, Rep. Wendy McNamara, a pro-life advocate herself, said, "It's bills like these that make people like me really hate the system," as lawmakers debated the bill's passing. The system McNamara speaks of extends well past this particular law. Almost a year ago now, Indiana resident Purvi Patel was sentenced to 30 years in prison for neglecting a dependent and inducing abortion with pills purchased online, as opposed to getting an abortion approved of by the state. According to Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Patel is the first woman to be charged for taking an abortion into her own hands. If HB 1337 is passed, the conditions will surely worsen. In a statement, she says:
The entire case is based on the presumption that there's a role for the criminal justice system in overseeing one's pregnancy and decisions about pregnancy. Every aspect of women's reproductive lives becomes subject to potential criminal investigation.
Ironically, Indiana is extremely concerned with preventing discrimination of an unborn fetus but indirectly promotes the discrimination of its LGBT community. This past February, Republican Senate leaders in Indiana made an executive decision to simply throw out legislation that could have promoted gay rights. Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana defended the decision and called it "wise" in a statement.
Rather than further divide Hoosiers and threaten religious freedom, the Indiana Senate wisely chose to put this matter aside and deal with more important and necessary issues.
Indiana could potentially be home to the nation's worst abortion legislation, next to that of North Dakota. Furthermore, its refusal to so much as continue dialogue regarding gay rights shows that it's indignant upon sticking to its anti-progressive ways. Passing HB 1337 would represent yet another step in the wrong direction, as well as a possible Supreme Court case in the making.