2013 Indiana General Assembly

Dem leader warns on social issues ahead of House abortion battle

2013-03-07T18:30:00Z 2013-03-07T18:35:03Z Dem leader warns on social issues ahead of House abortion battleDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
March 07, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Standing in front of an oversized report card on the House floor Thursday, Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, awarded midterm grades to the Republican supermajority: "D-" for supporting traditional public schools; "Incomplete" for aiding the middle class; and "B+" for taking a break on social issues legislation.

While Pelath bemoaned continuing GOP support for charter schools and private school vouchers and urged lawmakers to back lower taxes and an expanded Medicaid to help the middle class, he seemed genuinely pleased to award a top grade to Republicans for, so far, not acting on social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.

"When you bring up the most divisive social issues it crowds out the public discussion, it creates bad feelings here in the chamber and makes it harder to work together," Pelath said. "And if we start talking about transvaginal ultrasounds in the second half of the session, this will turn into an 'F.' "

It appears Pelath would be wise to keep his red marker handy to change that grade because, for better or worse, the abortion debate is coming to the House.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Thursday he has assigned Senate Bill 371 to the Public Policy Committee, chaired by state Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, where Bosma said it will receive the same consideration as any other Senate-approved proposal. No Northwest Indiana representatives serve on that committee.

The legislation requires a woman seeking a pill-induced abortion undergo an ultrasound prior to obtaining the medicine. Since the abortion pill cannot be administered after 10 weeks of pregnancy such early ultrasounds typically utilize a vaginal probe.

A second ultrasound is recommended but not required in the legislation to ensure the pregnancy was completely terminated.

The measure also imposes strict new rules on facilities that distribute abortion pills such that only clinics that currently perform surgical abortions will likely meet the new standards.

Bosma said he believes Indiana needs to set requirements for the use of abortion-inducing pills, which currently are not explicitly regulated under state law.

"It would seem that there seems to be some need for regulation in that regard," Bosma said. "Whether the bill as constituted is the right direction, I don't know the answer to that yet."

State Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, a top Bosma lieutenant, has no doubts. Turner said he is certain the "solidly pro-life" House will act to limit access to abortion-inducing drugs, which he called "chemical abortions."

"The public that knows about them is very concerned; the rest of the public that will learn about them will be concerned," Turner said. "That bill will pass, it will go to the governor, he'll sign it and it'll become law."

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