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Reviews | Indiana’s cruel abortion bill is a warning of post-Roe reality

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The choice was between cruel and more cruel. Cruel narrowly won.

On Saturday, the Indiana Senate vote to make abortion illegal in the state. The measure passed with the bare minimum of votes – not because lawmakers balked at banning abortion, but because many believed the bill, with its exceptions for rape and incest, was not strict enough.

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Welcome to the new abortion debate, in which no restriction short of an absolute and inflexible ban will satisfy some opponents of abortion. So much for the hazy vision of a European-style consensus in which states would make abortion freely available up to a certain point in pregnancy, say 15 weeks, the limit imposed by Mississippi law that the conservative majority of the Supreme Court used in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as a vehicle to abolish the right to abortion. The legislative landscape is ongoingbut the new reality is that abortion is likely to be banned or unavailable after the first few weeks of pregnancy in almost half the states.

Abortion is now prohibited in these states. See where the laws have changed.

Indiana is one of the first to consider abortion legislation following the Supreme Court’s vote to strike down Roe vs. Wade, so the fate of the measure passed on Saturday is instructive. Republicans enjoy a comfortable supermajority in the state legislature, with 39 of the 50 seats in the Senate. But Indiana Republicans were a split party — 18 voted to eliminate the rape and incest exceptions — and ultimately only 26 voted for final passage. Now the measure is heading to the Republican-dominated House, which has a chance to make it even worse.

To a certain extent, the anti-abortion forces are like the dog that grabbed the car – after all these years of wanton protests against Deer, they are in the uncomfortable position of having to make concrete and politically risky choices about what restrictions to impose in his absence.

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So is it good news that the most extreme forces have not prevailed, at least for now? Or is it bad news that what they deem unacceptable is itself so extreme? Yes and yes, but count me more worried than relieved. The debate in Indiana shows why.

The invoice would make abortion illegal in almost all cases. It makes an exception for cases of rape and incest – but even then only up to eight weeks pregnant, 12 weeks if the victim is under 16. What generosity.

Another is whether the pregnancy would result in “substantial permanent impairment of the mother’s life.” Do you know what that means? Neither did I – and neither did a doctor, facing the possibility of felony charges carrying up to six years in prison. Who is going to take the risk of performing an abortion in these circumstances, unless the risk of maternal death is undeniable?

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So you would have thought that anti-abortion activists would be delighted with this measure. Not even close. Carol Tobias, Chair of the National Right to Life Committee, decried as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing designed to expand abortion on demand in the state of Indiana”.

Develop abortion on demand? It’s ridiculous at first sight. Under existing Indiana law, women can get abortions up to 22 weeks pregnant. All women, without needing to demonstrate a “substantial permanent impairment” of anything. Including their autonomy.

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The measure got tougher as it worked its way through the legislative process – but not tough enough for some. A analysis by Indiana attorney James Bopp Jr., the longtime general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, cited the problem posed by “the refusal of radical Democratic prosecutors…to prosecute illegal abortions under any new Indiana abortion law”. So lawmakers added a provision allowing the state attorney general to sue when local prosecutors refuse. Not good enough.

The measure required those seeking an abortion because of rape or incest to file affidavits, signed “under penalty of perjury”, attesting to what happened. “This creates a huge loophole where any woman or girl could easily falsely claim rape or incest resulting in abortion on demand throughout pregnancy,” Bopp warned.

So lawmakers added a provision requiring affidavits to be notarized. No dice. Anti-abortion campaigners have insisted that the rape must be reported to the authorities – otherwise lawmakers will ‘deny women the help they need’, according to one statement by Mike Fichter, President of Indiana Right to Life. As if women can’t decide for themselves if they want to report a rape. As if they were all a bunch of liars whose loose morals got them into this predicament in the first place.

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This is deemed insufficient. “We did not wait 50 years for the complete reversal of Roe vs. Wade for this”, Fichter said.

Believe it. The anti-abortion movement has persisted for half a century in the fight roe deer. He obtained the elimination of an established constitutional right. It will continue, I fear, until it achieves the ultimate goal: a nationwide ban.

“We will not stop at Deer,” protesters sung in Indiana as the measure was debated. Trust them: they won’t. Be warned. Be ready.

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