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Abortion, med-mal, private university police bills await Pence’s decision

March 24, 2016

High-profile bills involving restrictions on abortion, increasing the caps on medical malpractice damages and slightly lifting the secrecy of police units at Notre Dame and other private universities are among the unsigned bills remaining on the final day for Gov. Mike Pence to act.

Pence faces a deadline Thursday to take action on a host of bills, including House Enrolled Act 1337, a measure that would make Indiana the second state to ban abortions because of fetal genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome. The governor reiterated his anti-abortion stance when he spoke about the measure Wednesday, but he said he was considering arguments on both sides of the contentious bill.

"I've long stood for the sanctity of life and I bring that value to this consideration," Pence said. "But we're listening respectfully to both sides and giving careful consideration to this legislation that's put on our desk."

The measure also would prohibit abortions done because of a fetus's race, sex or ancestry and would mandate that the only way to dispose of an aborted fetus is through burial or cremation.

The bill has drawn backlash from a national group of gynecologists and several female Republican members of the GOP-dominated Indiana Legislature who say it goes too far in telling women what they can and can't do.

Unless Pence vetoes bills that remain Thursday, they will become law with or without his signature.

Pence has also expressed concern about House Enrolled Act 1022, which would require limited reporting of incidents involving private university police departments. The General Assembly sent the bill to Pence just before the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of ESPN, which is seeking records from Notre Dame police as it investigates allegations of favorable treatment for student athletes.

Pence said Monday his “strong bias for the public’s right to know” will weigh heavily as he decides whether to veto the measure.

Other key bills unsigned on deadline day include Senate Enrolled Act 28, increasing the cap on medical malpractice damages from the current $1.25 million to $1.65 million next year and to $1.8 million in 2019. The bill gained support of plaintiffs’ lawyers and medical organizations who worried the Indiana Malpractice Act could be ruled unconstitutional for failing to provide a remedy for malpractice victims whose damages surpass the current cap, which had not been increased in nearly 18 years.

Also awaiting a decision from Pence was Senate Enrolled Act 339, regulating daily fantasy sports, and House Enrolled Act 1082, a compromise on a bill that initially would have prevented the state from enacting environmental regulations more stringent than federal rules.

As of Thursday morning, 33 bills were awaiting Pence’s decision to veto, sign, or allow them to become law without his signature.

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