Doctors Targeted by Indiana’s New, Highly Restrictive Abortion Law

Monday, March 28, 2016
Gov. Mike Pence (photo: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)


By Mitch Smith, New York Times


CHICAGO — Indiana’s governor signed a bill on Thursday that adds broad limits to women’s access to abortions, banning those motivated solely by the mother’s objection to the fetus’ race, gender or disability, and placing new restrictions on doctors.


The law, which passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled General Assembly with large majorities, builds on Indiana’s already restrictive abortion rules, and was cheered by anti-abortion groups that had encouraged Gov. Mike Pence to sign it.


The bill is among several limiting abortion that have passed conservative legislatures in recent years, but the sheer number of restrictions in Indiana’s legislation made it distinct. In addition to holding doctors liable if a woman has an abortion solely because of objections to the fetus’ race, sex or a disability, like Down syndrome, the law restricts fetal tissue donation and requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital or to have an agreement with a doctor who does.


“Seeing them all in one place, that is very striking,” said Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor who has been an abortion rights advocate. “It’s like the kitchen sink: Everything that isn’t already in the law. And the law is already really restrictive.”


Pence, a Republican, said he signed the bill because “I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable — the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn.”


The bill, he said in his signing statement, “will ensure the dignified final treatment of the unborn and prohibits abortions that are based only on the unborn child’s sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry or disability, including Down syndrome.”


He added, “Some of my most precious moments as governor have been with families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome.”


The measure drew a sharp rebuke from abortion rights groups, and the law returned Indiana to the center of a national debate about social issues. Just a year ago, Pence signed a religious objections bill perceived by many as anti-gay, prompting some corporations to threaten to stop doing business in Indiana unless the law was changed. Within days, Pence signed a so-called fix to that law saying it did not allow discrimination.


Pence, who had been seen before the religious objections episode as a possible presidential contender, was widely criticized for his handling of the matter. In its aftermath, his political stock plummeted, and he is currently engaged in a re-election race that many expect to be close.


Thursday was Pence’s deadline to act on the abortion bill, and he waited until late in the day to announce his decision.


Many of the provisions in the Indiana law have been enacted previously in at least one other state. Arizona also bans abortion on the basis of race, and North Dakota has outlawed abortions performed because the fetus has a disability.


Johnsen said the legislation was “a clear attempt to interfere and harm and chill doctors’ willingness to perform abortions.”


To Learn More:

House Bill 1337 (Indiana General Assembly)

South Dakota Criminalizes Late Abortions (by Lacie Louwagie, Courthouse News Service)

State Abortion Restriction Laws have Averaged almost One a Week Since 2010 (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Arizona Requires Doctors to Tell Patients Drug-Induced Abortion is Reversible…Despite Medical Evidence (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Federal Court Approves Doctors Telling Patients that Abortion Can Lead to Suicide (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

South Dakota in Turmoil over a Bill to Call Killing Abortion Doctors “Justifiable Homicide” (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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