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House lawmakers reject effort to eliminate rape, incest exceptions in abortion ban

Indiana Republican Representative Karen Engleman stands on the House floor, watching another representative speak. Engleman is a White woman with chestnut hair. She's wearing glasses and a pink jacket over a black top with white polka dots. She's holding papers in front of her.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
Rep. Karen Engleman (R-Georgetown) stands on the House floor on Aug. 4, 2022. She watches a fellow lawmaker speaker about her proposed amendment to the abortion ban bill that would force rape and incest victims to give birth.

The Indiana House rejected an effort Thursday to eliminate rape and incest exceptions from the proposed abortion ban.

The current bill, SB 1 (ss), would allow abortions to save the life or prevent serious health risk of the pregnant person and when there’s a lethal fetal anomaly. It also would allow abortions in cases of rape or incest, up to 10 weeks.

Rep. Karen Engleman (R-Georgetown) proposed an amendment to the bill to force rape and incest victims to give birth.

“The weight of whether or not we allow lives to be ended should not rest on the traumatized shoulders of a young rape survivor,” Engleman said.

Democrats, like Rep. Rita Fleming (D-Jeffersonville) called the amendment "inhumane."

"We cannot do this to our children," Fleming said.

Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) brought up the recent case of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who came to Indiana to receive abortion care.

“I just don’t understand why we would force a baby – really, at 10, a baby – to have a baby,” Pryor said.

Republicans who supported eliminating the rape and incest exception used a familiar refrain: "two wrongs don't make a right."

"You cannot treat rape – one of the worst things that can happen to someone – you cannot treat that with abortion," said Rep. Tim Wesco (R-Osceola).

Rep. Justin Moed (D-Indianapolis) said the amendment wasn't even really about access to abortion.

"What we are debating is whether or not rapists will be rewarded as dads," Moed said.

The House also overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to ban all abortions, without any exceptions. Only six Republicans voted for that amendment: Rep. Bruce Borders (R-Jasonville); Rep. Jeff Ellington (R-Bloomfield); Rep. Matt Hostettler (R-Patoka); Rep. John Jacob (R-Indianapolis); Rep. Curt Nisly (R-Milford); and Rep. Zach Payne (R-Charlestown).

READ MORE: Researchers release findings from study looking at support gaps for pregnant Hoosiers

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Republicans also voted down an amendment that would’ve allowed all abortions up to 13 weeks.

Rep. Ann Vermilion (R-Marion) said she thinks that proposal speaks to where some many Hoosiers are on the issue.

"I believe that a middle ground can be found as we protect the unborn at the same time we provide choice for women in those early stages of unwanted pregnancy," Vermilion said.

Rep. Joanna King (R-Middlebury) said she believes her role is to protect children "born and unborn."

"We must advocate for laws that carefully balance the rights of the child and those of the mother," King said.

The House did make small changes to the bill. One altered the lethal fetal anomaly exception to limit it to 20 weeks. House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said that was based on feedback from physicians as to how they typically handle cases of lethal fetal anomalies after 20 weeks.

"In those situations, typically they induce the mother – it's the safest thing for the mother to give the natural birth," Huston said.

Lawmakers also changed the bill's effective date. The Indiana Hospital Association had requested that the ban, if passed, not take effect until Nov. 1, to give doctors time to understand their new legal landscape.

The original measure was supposed to take effect Sept. 1. The House's change delayed that until Sept. 15.

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

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Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri.