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2019 Indiana General Assembly

Governor approves new Indiana abortion restrictions; legal challenge expected

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Gov. Eric Holcomb

Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks Jan. 14 during a ceremony at the Statehouse.

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed into law two measures approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that further restrict the availability of abortion in Indiana.

The Republican chief executive did not issue any statement in connection with his enactment of House Enrolled Act 1211 and Senate Enrolled Act 201.

The governor's office announced Wednesday evening that Holcomb had signed the legislation, along with more than two dozen other proposals recently advanced to his desk by the Indiana House and Senate.

House Enrolled Act 1211, which takes effect July 1, prohibits dilation and evacuation abortions, which the law calls "dismemberment abortion," except when a woman otherwise would suffer "substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function."

The procedure is considered by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to be the safest method for completing an abortion after 13 weeks of pregnancy.

But anti-abortion lawmakers claim the procedure is "barbaric" because it requires a doctor to use forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments to remove a fetus from a woman's uterus.

State records show just 27 women obtained an abortion in Indiana using the procedure in 2017, out of 7,778 total abortions.

It most commonly is used between 13 and 20 weeks of pregnancy when prenatal testing indicates serious health risks for either the fetus or the pregnant woman if the pregnancy is carried to term.

Similar laws restricting the procedure enacted by other states have been found by federal courts to be an unconstitutional burden on the right to abortion and struck down.

The Indiana ACLU already has indicated that it will challenge the measure in court, a fight that the state attorney general's office has signaled it's eager to wage — despite repeatedly losing over the past decade in its attempts to defend Indiana laws restricting abortion.

The second new law, which also takes effect July 1, expands the state's conscience-protection statute for medical professionals who do not want to perform an abortion or participate in any procedure that results in an abortion, including prescribing, administering or dispensing an abortion-inducing drug.

The Indiana Code already authorizes physicians, hospital employees and health clinic staffers to opt out of providing abortion care.

The new statute gives the same right to nurses, pharmacists and physician assistants who are not directly employed by a hospital or health clinic.


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