Indiana assembly passes anti-abortion bill, governor signs it into law

Indiana’s state legislature has become the first in the US to pass new legislation restricting access to abortions since the federal supreme court overturned Roe v Wade.

The bill went to the state’s Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, who signed it into law on Friday night.

Indiana was among the earliest Republican-run state legislatures to debate tighter abortion laws after the supreme court ruling in June that removed constitutional protections. It is the first state to pass a ban through both chambers.

The Indiana senate approved the near-total ban 28-19, hours after house members advanced it 62-38. It includes limited exceptions, including in cases of rape and incest, and to protect the life and physical health of the mother. The exceptions for rape and incest are limited to 10 weeks post-fertilization, meaning victims could not get an abortion in Indiana after that. Victims would not be required to sign a notarized affidavit attesting to an attack.

Outside the house chamber, abortion rights activists often chanted over lawmakers’ remarks, carrying signs like “Roe roe roe your vote” and “Build this wall” between church and state. Some house Democrats wore blazers over pink “Bans Off Our Bodies” T-shirts.

Indiana lawmakers listened to testimony over the past two weeks in which residents on all sides of the issue rarely, if ever, supported the legislation. Abortion-rights supporters said the bill went too far, while anti-abortion activists said it did not go far enough.

In advocating against the bill, Rep Ann Vermilion condemned her fellow Republicans for calling women who obtained abortions “murderers”.

“I think that the Lord’s promise is for grace and kindness,” she said. “He would not be jumping to condemn these women.”

The house rejected, largely on party lines, a Democratic proposal to place a non-binding question on the statewide November election ballot: “Shall abortion remain legal in Indiana?”

The Indiana house speaker, Todd Huston, said that if residents were unhappy, they could vote for new lawmakers.

Kansas voters already resoundingly rejected a measure that would have allowed the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to tighten abortion in the first test of voters’ feelings about the issue since Roe was overturned.

Indiana’s proposed ban also came after the political firestorm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to end her pregnancy. The case gained attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child came to Indiana because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” ban.

Democratic Rep Maureen Bauer spoke tearfully before Friday’s vote about people in her South Bend district who oppose the bill – the husbands standing behind their wives, the fathers supporting their daughters – as well as the women “who are demanding that we are seen as equal”.

Bauer’s comments were followed by raucous cheers from protesters in the hallway and subdued applause from fellow Democrats.

“You may not have thought that these women would show up,” Bauer said. “Maybe you thought we wouldn’t be paying attention.”

West Virginia legislators on 29 July passed up the chance to be the first state with a unified ban after its lower house refused to concur with senate amendments that removed criminal penalties for physicians who performed illegal abortions. Delegates instead asked for a conference committee to consider the details between the bills.