Indiana lawmakers are holding off on pursuing major anti-abortion action as they await a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could roll back abortion rights across the country.
Republican legislators say they don’t want to take up new Indiana restrictions until knowing how far they will be able to go under the Supreme Court decision that’s not expected until after the state legislative session ends in March.
Those lawmakers might ask Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to call the Legislature into a special session so they could take action without having to wait until 2023.
Republican Sen. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne, who has sponsored several anti-abortion bills adopted in recent years, said Thursday that she was hopeful the Supreme Court will overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that affirmed the constitutional right to an abortion.
“Instead of putting a framework in place that we would change anyway, in a few weeks or months after the session is over, I’d rather wait and enact the framework that’s going to be constitutional,” Brown said.
In December, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority indicated they would uphold a Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and allow states to ban abortion even earlier. The Mississippi case directly challenges Roe.
Indiana law generally prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with 99% of abortions in the state occurring at 13 weeks or earlier, according to a state Health Department report.
Republican Indiana Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said he could support seeking a special session on tighter abortion restrictions, depending on how the Supreme Court decides. Bray said he believes it is too complicated for the Legislature to act ahead of that decision.
“To try and anticipate what that might say and draft legislation to anticipate every possible solution or opinion that they may come out with just looks completely undoable to me,” Bray said.
One bill that has been taken up by legislators this session would create a specific law making it a felony criminal offense to coerce a pregnant woman into undergoing an abortion. The bill cleared a House committee last week despite criticism that it wasn’t the proper response to domestic abuse tied to such actions, which could already be prosecuted under the state’s law against intimidation.
Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature has adopted numerous abortion restrictions over the past decade, with several later blocked by court challenges. That includes a law adopted last year that was aimed at requiring doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions about a disputed “abortion reversal” treatment.
Planned Parenthood, which operates abortion clinics in Indianapolis, Merrillville, Bloomington and Lafayette, said anti-abortion legislators were confident about how the “newly politicized Supreme Court” will rule.
“The Roe decision is in peril and we know Indiana lawmakers will be back the minute they have a chance to ban abortion entirely,” Jennifer Allen, CEO for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said in a statement. “Make no mistake, we are at a crisis point, and this is the moment for every elected leader who cares about health care, and all of us individually, to stand up, speak out, and fight back.”
Mike Fichter, president of the anti-abortion group Indiana Right to Life, said it was wise to know the court’s decision to draft the strongest law for the state. Fichter said the Indiana March for Life march set for Monday at the Statehouse would include urging support for a special legislative session.
“We just want our supporters, legislators to know in Indiana that if Roe is reversed, we will call for that special session,” Fichter said.
Holcomb also wants to see the court’s ruling before the state takes more action, and “there are just too many hypotheticals” to say whether he would support a special legislative session on the issue, said Erin Murphy, the governor’s spokeswoman.
Brown, the Fort Wayne senator, said she and other anti-abortion legislators would want to act quickly after the court’s ruling.
“We are all committed to coming back for a special session to make those changes immediately, so that we don’t waste a day in saving a child’s life if that’s what we’re able to do,” Brown said.