Indiana legislators eye Texas abortion law but not this year

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Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature has approved numerous abortion restrictions over the past decade but its top leaders said Thursday it won’t hurry to adopt legislation patterned after a new Texas law that bans most abortions.

Even though legislators will be meeting for an unusual session during the last two weeks of September, Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said they would limit that session to the redrawing of congressional and legislative district maps. That means any abortion law debates wouldn’t happen until the next regular legislative session starts in January.

“We’re closely watching what’s happening in Texas in regards to their new pro-life law, including any legal challenges,” Huston said in a statement. “Indiana is one of the most pro-life states in the country, and we’ll continue to examine ways to further protect life at all stages.”

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, allowed the new Texas law to take effect Wednesday even though the court didn’t rule on its constitutionality. The action has Republicans in many states eager to pass similar measures.

The Texas law allows private citizens to bring lawsuits in state court against anyone involved in an abortion other than the patient. Other abortion laws are enforced by state and local officials, with criminal sanctions possible. It also prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks, which is before most women know they’re pregnant.

Abortion-rights supporters vowed to continue the legal fight and said Texas politicians had made a “mockery of the rule of law.”

Republican Indiana state Sen. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne, who sponsored several anti-abortion bills adopted in recent years, said she was interested in pursuing a law similar to the one in Texas.

Brown, who is an attorney, said she believed the provision allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers and others was “appropriate.”

“I think that abortions affect society and the community and frankly, in some states, even though you may have pro-life legislators, you do not always have pro-life bureaucrats who are willing to do enforcement inspections,” Brown said.

Indiana’s Legislature has adopted numerous abortion restrictions over the past decade, with several later blocked by court challenges.

A federal judge ruled in August that several of Indiana’s laws restricting abortion were unconstitutional, including the state’s ban on telemedicine consultations between doctors and women seeking abortions.

A judge in 2019 blocked the state’s ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure that the legislation called “dismemberment abortion.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 also rejected Indiana’s appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked a ban on abortion based on gender, race or disability. However, it upheld a portion of the 2016 law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains after an abortion.

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