Indiana Senate OKs new hurdle for minors seeking abortions

The Indiana Senate sent Gov. Eric Holcomb a measure Wednesday that would make it tougher for a minor to have an abortion without her parents knowing about it, after legislators changed the wording to leave open the possibility that the procedure could still be kept private under some circumstances.

Under Indiana law, girls younger than 18 must either get their parents' consent to have an abortion or seek permission from a judge. The bill that senators approved 38-10 in a final vote would require the judge considering the request to also weigh whether the girl's parents should receive notification of her pursuit of the so-called "judicial bypass," regardless of the decision on the abortion itself.

The new Republican governor has not taken a public position on it. Spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson wrote in an email that the bill is not on Holcomb's agenda for the session and declined to comment further, aside from noting he'll "consider it carefully before making his final decision."

Senators who voted against the measure Wednesday cited concerns with licensing provisions added in by the House from a separate abortion bill that did not advance, documentation the bill mandates must be kept in the minor's medical file and the treatment of minors in the foster care system.

The proposal by Sen. Erin Houchin was heavily amended in a House committee amid constitutionality concerns and, when it cleared the chamber last week, GOP lawmakers still appeared to disagree on the bill's effect.

Three Republicans joined Democratic senators in opposing it on the Senate floor.

The Salem Republican's bill originally mandated parents receive legal notice when their child pursues a judicial bypass and be provided an opportunity to object to the abortion in court. The House stripped that provision, instead requiring a judge to consider parental notification.

A federal judge last month blocked a separate Indiana mandate forcing women to undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before having an abortion. The ruling granted a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the waiting period, arguing that the requirement creates "clearly undue" burdens on women.

"This bill, again, is unnecessary," said Democratic Sen. Mark Stoops of Bloomington. "I wish we didn't have to go through this every session and then be embarrassed about it when a court overturns whatever we've done."

Indiana Right to Life praised the Senate's vote Wednesday, pointing to additional provisions in the abortion bill that codify clinics' responsibility to verify the identification of the person providing consent for the minor and adjust reporting requirements to reflect Indiana's age of consent.

"Indiana is a state that values life," Sue Swayze Liebel, the group's vice president, wrote in a statement. "Policymakers have a valid interest in protecting minors, recognizing parents' rights and helping victims forced into abortions."

This bill is the only abortion-related measure to advance this far in the legislative process this year.

A bill that would have effectively banned abortion in the state died without a hearing at the start of session and a measure addressing so-called abortion reversal procedures wasn't advanced after reaching the Senate. Less-contentious portions of that bill were incorporated into Houchin's proposal.

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