After a contentious debate that pitted Indiana’s Senate Republicans against each other — a rare occurrence — the Senate voted down a measure late Thursday night that would have nixed exceptions for rape and incest in the proposed abortion ban.
After four and a half hours of debate on the amendment filled with religious references, the Senate voted to keep exceptions for rape and incest in the bill by a 28-18 vote. Republicans were evenly split on the measure, with 18 Republicans voting to further limit abortions and 18 voting against.
The divided vote showed that even in a state where Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers and control every aspect of government, how far to restrict abortions access in the absence of the Roe v. Wade protections isn’t always clear cut.
Had the amendment passed, the only exception to Indiana’s near-total abortion ban would be to protect the pregnant person’s life.
Republican Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, offered the amendment, because he said he didn’t think the bill went far enough as initially proposed.
“When we have exceptions, that equals death,” Young said on the Senate floor. “We have the opportunity and responsibility to protect those people who cannot talk to us. That’s our job.”
Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, was among those who backed him up saying “two wrongs never make a right.”
But, not all of his colleagues agreed. Multiple Republicans spoke against the measure.
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Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, said if his 29-year-old daughter were raped, he’d want her to be able to make the decision of whether or not to keep the child.
“That’s not being liberal,” Alting said. “I think it’s just trying to be a good dad and understanding the reality of today’s sick sick world that we live in.”
Also, Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, argued that allowing exceptions for rape and incest might actually prevent abortions because pregnant people would feel comfortable seeking guidance from others, including groups that are anti-abortion, who might encourage them to not just go out of state to get an abortion.
“I’m convinced in my heart that we can save more unborn children so they can experience life with the exception rather than without,” Walker said, adding that he answers to a “higher power” than the public.
In his closing statement, Young said that keeping too many exceptions in the bill, and not making the abortion of an fetus illegal, was similar to the compromise the founding fathers made to count slaves as three/fifths of a person. He also argued that keeping an exception for incest essentially telling those who are wrongfully in incestuous relationship that they can keep doing wrong and still be able to obtain an abortion, while those who are in non-incestuous relationships cannot.
“What your saying is this, if it’s incest, kill your baby,” Young said. “If you’re married or in a boyfriend, girlfriend relationship, you can’t do it if your baby’s got a defect, but we’ll give it to somebody who broke the law. That is not right.”
The vote fell in line with public opinion: according to the 2019 Old National Bank and Ball State University Hoosier Survey, only 17% of those surveyed think abortion should be illegal in all cases. Sen Gaskill, R-Pendleton, acknowledged his vote to remove exceptions for rape from the bill might not be politically popular, but he said, “I love Jesus more than I love being in the Senate.”
In a further demonstration of just how messy and contentious the abortion issue can be, Senators filed more than 60 amendments on the bill Thursday — including dozens from Republicans. The start of session was delayed by three hours as Republicans discussed those amendments in caucus. Altogether, the Senate spent more than seven hours debating all of the amendments, ending their discussion after midnight.
The amendments filed by Republicans fell across the spectrum, from theone that would nix any exceptions for rape and incest, to one that would allow physicians to provide abortions up to 20 weeks for those seeking an exception due to rape or incest.
The Senate shut down the latter amendment as well, with a 17-29 vote, which means exceptions for rape and incest are still limited to 12 weeks post fertilization for those who are 15 years old and younger and eight weeks post fertilization, for those 16 years and older.
Among the amendments the Senate did vote to pass was one requiring the signed affidavit, required to claim the exception for rape or incest, to be notarized. The amendment just barely squeaked through with a 24-23 vote after Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch broke the tie by voting for the measure, an uncommon occurrence.
The divide among Republicans was evident even before the vote as Young strolled around the chamber while his fellow Republicans met in caucus. As the Indiana Capital Chronicle first reported, Young isn’t caucusing with Republicans currently over concerns about legislative leadership’s approach to its handling of the abortion bill.
“We’re all on the same page,” Young joked with reporters about his one-person caucus.
At times this week, the fate of any abortion bill has seemed rocky. At the start of the week, bill author Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, issued a warning to anti-abortion groups and lawmakers: if Republicans don’t come to an agreement on an adequate bill, they just won’t pass anything until January with lawmakers convene for the regular special session.
“We want to reach the right result, and if we can’t reach the right result, there is a statute in Indiana we’ll live with until it’ll change in the future,” Glick said.
Because the the Indiana Senate didn’t finish voting on amendments until after midnight, Senate rules restrict the chamber from voting on the bill on Friday as originally planned. Instead the chamber will vote on Saturday. The bill will then move to the House side.
Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270 or email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.