Senate panel OKs ban on second-trimester abortion procedure

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An Indiana Senate panel is backing legislation that would largely ban a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure while a potential challenge to another Indiana abortion restriction remains pending before justices of the United States Supreme Court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 Wednesday in favor of House Bill 1211, which now heads to the full Republican-dominated Senate.

The measure would ban dilation and evacuation abortions that the legislation calls “dismemberment abortion.” It would make it illegal for doctors to use instruments such as clamps, forceps and scissors to remove a fetus from the womb unless there's "serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function" to the woman.

Doing so would become a felony punishable by one to six years in prison.

Abortion rights groups argue that banning the procedure would wrongly interfere with private medical decisions.

The House approved the bill in February on a 71-25 vote.

During the committee hearing, Sen. Greg Taylor raised concerns about the language in the bill tangling the state in another legal battle. The Indianapolis Democrat noted similar measures in other states have been challenged and found to be unconstitutional.

“We’re going to have another lawsuit,” Taylor said, “and for those with the (American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana) here you go, again, you’re going to be able to win another case and win some more money.”

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, echoed Taylor. He called the process “legislating to litigate” and noted since 2011 Indiana has paid more than $3.8 million in attorney fees to the ACLU of Indiana, and since 2015 the state has paid more than $1.4 million in taxpayer dollars to “litigate these fruitless pieces of legislation.”

Already the state has a petition for writ of certiorari pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, trying to reinstate another law that was overturned by the Southern Indiana District Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The law, which was part of HEA 1337 that passed in 2016, places restrictions on the disposal of the fetal remains and prohibits abortions on the basis of the fetus’ gender, race and genetic abnormality.

Justices have relisted the petition for a ninth conference Friday.

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