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Senate debates changes to abortion ban for five hours, keeps rape and incest exceptions

Democratic Senator Fady Qaddoura and Republican Senator Mike Young face each other on the floor of the Indiana Senate during a debate over a proposed abortion ban. Both men stand at lecterns and are gesturing as they speak. Qaddoura is on the left of the image and Young is on the right. The tops and backs of other senators' heads are visible as they sit in chairs, listening to the debate.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis), left, and Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) debate Young's proposal to eliminate rape and incest exceptions for abortion during a Senate floor session on July 28, 2022.

The Indiana Senate rejected an effort Thursday that would’ve deleted rape and incest exceptions from its proposed abortion ban, SB 1(s).

Sen. Mike Young proposed an amendment that would have limited exceptions in the ban only to when the life of the pregnant person is at risk. Exceptions, he said, equal death.

“And what you’re telling me is if they rape the woman, we oughta kill the baby," Young said. "That is not right and I will never, ever accept that.”

The debate just on Young’s amendment took two hours. And lawmakers on both sides of the vote professed their religious beliefs on the floor to defend their position.

Sen. Mike Gaskill (R-Pendleton), who voted for the amendment, said he knew he and other senators might face consequences for doing so, including losing re-election bids.

"I'm up here today to represent Jesus," Gaskill said.

Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus) quoted the Christian Bible before voting against the amendment. Keeping the race and incest exceptions, he said, would advance the anti-abortion cause by encouraging pregnant people to stay in Indiana to make their decision.

"I think about those women, who don't hold the same convictions I do," Walker said. "But they're faced with these life-changing questions at a very pivotal moment and we said there are no options in this state."

Eighteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting against Young’s proposal. Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange), the author of the abortion ban bill, said rape and incest victims shouldn’t have choice taken away from them.

“Don’t foster that evil on them after the evil they’ve already suffered,” Glick said.

Sen. Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) said her mouth dropped when she read Young's proposal.

"This is an outrageous proposal fueled by the arrogance of the power of the majority," Breaux said.

READ MORE: Indiana Senate lawmakers begin special session with testimony on abortion ban

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Lawmakers considered 32 other changes to the abortion ban. Most were offered by Democrats, and the vast majority were rejected. Some amendments would've deleted provisions in the bill while others proposed adding more support for pregnant people.

Some amendments were approved. Sen. Aaron Freeman's (R-Indianapolis) would allow the Indiana attorney general to take over prosecution of cases if a local prosecutor "categorically" refuses to prosecute certain laws. He said prosecutors shouldn't get to pick and choose which laws to enforce.

"I'm sure folks in Indiana walking the streets don't like certain laws," Freeman said. "And we'd better be in a place that everybody's going to follow the laws or we're in real trouble."

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said his office has no plans to prosecute women or doctors over abortions.

The Senate has debated such a provision before, also aimed at Mears. That's because the Marion County official said he won't prosecute simple marijuana possession cases. But such a measure has never been approved by the General Assembly.

"Shame on us if we support this amendment," Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said. "We defeated it before. Let's defeat it again."

Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) successfully pushed an amendment affecting abortions performed in cases of rape and incest. The bill requires victims to sign an affidavit before they can access abortion care. Brown's amendment requires those affidavits to be notarized. And she also stripped out language in the bill explicitly ensuring the documents are confidential.

Brown and Glick insist the affidavits are still confidential because the bill requires them to be included in a person's permanent health record.

The amendment passed by the narrowest of margins. Tied at 23 votes apiece, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who presides over the Senate, cast the tie-breaking vote to approve the change.

Democrats also had a pair of amendments added to the bill. Current law requires a pregnant minor to get their parents' consent to get an abortion. Sen. Tim Lanane's (D-Anderson) amendment said that if the minor is pregnant by their parent, legal guardian or custodian, that parental consent requirement doesn't apply.

And under an amendment from Breaux, the state maternal mortality review committee will study the abortion ban's impact on maternal mortality over the next few years.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Saturday to send the abortion ban to the House.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.