GOP abortion legislation still under wraps as special session looms

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With a little more than a week left before the Republican-dominated Indiana Legislature convenes for a special session, not much is known about what its abortion-related legislation will look like, or exactly how soon bills will be filed.

Republicans have met privately in caucus and leadership has been polling its members to get a better sense of where they stand on issues related to abortion, but most have been silent on what precise direction the legislation is headed.

Some media outlets have speculated that the GOP will draw from a post-Roe v. Wade model abortion law crafted by Jim Bopp, an Indiana attorney who works with the National Right to Life Committee. The proposal would outlaw all abortions except to preserve the life of the mother; victims of rape and incest would have to travel out-of-state to seek abortion care.

The measure also would impose harsh criminal penalties on physicians who perform an abortion, making it a level 2 felony punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison.

Spokeswomen for the Indiana House and Senate Republicans didn’t respond directly to questions about whether lawmakers planned to work from Bopp’s proposal. GOP legislative leaders have generally declined to respond directly to media inquiries on the issue.

Over the past couple of weeks, Democrats have increasingly called on Republican leaders to end the secrecy.

“Legislators have a duty to answer their constituents’ questions and be up front with their agendas, especially in situations such as this. Unfortunately, Republicans seem to have forgotten that fact,” Rep. Tonya Pfaff, D-Terre Haute, said in a written statement on Thursday. “While millions of Hoosiers are awaiting their plan, Republicans have spent the last month scheming behind closed doors and refusing to answer questions. We are completely in the dark as to what the future for all women in Indiana will look like.”

Sen. Phil Boots, one of only a handful of pro-abortion rights Republicans in the Legislature, said he believes Indiana’s abortion law will look similar to Bopp’s model law.

“It appears there’s going to be an effort to pass something along those lines,” Boots told the Indianapolis Business Journal. “I’m not supportive of that, and I’m afraid that’s what the proposal would be.”

Whether lawmakers will consider one or several abortion bills during the session is also unclear.

During a special session, House rules do not include a deadline to file bills, according to Erin Wittern, spokeswoman for Indiana House Republicans. A Senate spokeswoman said the same is true of the Senate.

The special session is scheduled to begin in earnest on July 25. But with no stated bill filing deadlines, that means lawmakers potentially could convene before any legislation is filed.

The session is required by law to end by Aug. 14, meaning new abortion restrictions in Indiana almost certainly would pass the Legislature by then. If not, Gov. Eric Holcomb would have the option to immediately call a second special session to extend the Legislature’s work on the issue.

Holcomb has declined to say whether he would support legislation as restrictive as Bopp’s model law. On Wednesday, he told reporters that he wants to make progress “to protect innocent life” but declined to elaborate further. He did say he hopes the Legislature will boost support for social services, something House Speaker Todd Huston said he also supports.

“While it’s too early to speculate on what form legislation may take, I strongly believe we’ll couple any action with expanding resources and services to support pregnant mothers, and care for their babies before and after birth,” Huston said in a statement following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade

A joint statement issued by the offices of Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said the General Assembly “will vet [special-session] bills through the full legislative process, including committee hearings and public testimony.”

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