Indiana just passed a bill that puts the state in the running for the state with the strictest, most manipulative abortion laws. It passed through the state's legislature last week without much fanfare, and Gov. Mike Pence signed it into law. Here's everything you need to know about Indiana's abortion ban.
The bill has gained some comparison to Texas' House Bill 2, which effectively closed hundreds of clinics that provided abortions because they did not meet ridiculously high medical standards set by the state (like proximity to a hospital that would give the clinic admitting privileges). That bill is currently being constitutionally challenged in the Supreme Court, and foreshadows the challenge Indiana's bill will incur if it is indeed signed and passed. The two bills differ, however, on their approach to stopping women from getting abortions. Where Texas' bill found a way to close clinics and make the ones remaining inaccessible, Indiana targets the women seeking abortions and uses financial and emotional scare tactics to hinder them.
For example, the law prohibits women from aborting a fetus if it may have a disability, like Down Syndrome. According to The Indianapolis Star, the bill's proponents claim that rejecting a fetus because it has a disability — even one life-threatening (or financially threatening) for the mother or child — is the same thing as rejecting it because of its gender or race, which is illegal. Think that's bad? It gets worse. To enforce that, a woman would have to explain, and prove, exactly why she is seeking an abortion. It's completely subjective, and critics point out that the restriction isn't at all based in medical science or safety.
But, this is not a new idea. North Dakota has also passed a bill that allows the state to determine if a woman "deserves" an abortion based on her motivations. According to Indiana's law, saving the mother's life is not a valid reason. In fact, if that is the only reason, the mother could be sued and even convicted for getting an abortion.
This law will disproportionately affect poor women in more ways than one. According to The New York Times, without the ability to terminate a fetus that is projected to have a disability, a woman would be forced to carry that child to term, which may incur additional healthcare costs because of its disability, and then care for that child (which would also be expensive). The law will punish those women who seek care and dissuade countless others from ever visiting a clinic. If the law stands, a separate New York Times analysis indicates that women will seek illegal and unsafe abortions.
What's more is that, on top of all this, the law tacks on additional costs, even beyond the procedure itself. Women would be required to have a funeral or cremation for the aborted fetus, no matter what stage of development it is in. The law would also mandate that women listen to the fetus' heartbeat within 18 hours of their abortion.
Indiana's bill is another attempt to control women's bodies — this time not by removing clinics, but by levying emotional, financial, and even criminal threats towards those who seek abortions. Even some anti-abortion politicians have spoken out about the strictness of the proposal and the devastating effect it would have on the women of Indiana. It is severe, unenforceable, and strips nearly all decision-making power out of the hands the women who need care. Additionally, none of the restrictions — like being forced to have a funeral for the fetus — are based in medical science. Already, rights activists are building their case against this legislative blow.