INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana House voted 69-25 Thursday to permit nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists to deny women medical care based on an ethical, moral or religious objection to abortion.
Senate Bill 201 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.
State law already authorizes physicians, hospital employees and health clinic staffers to opt out of abortion-related health care.
The sponsor of the measure, state Rep. Ron Bacon, R-Chandler, said nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists who aren't directly employed by a hospital or health clinic deserve the same right not to provide medical assistance for terminating a pregnancy if it conflicts with their personal beliefs.
Opponents argued that the proposal potentially puts women at risk of death if they are denied care in an emergency situation, or if a pharmacist refuses to provide medication required to complete a miscarriage because it also can be used to induce an abortion.
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"Religious freedom does not include the right to harm others," said state Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis.
State Rep. Chris Chyung, D-Dyer, suggested the legislation also could lead to pharmacists denying emergency contraception to rape victims seeking to prevent pregnancy.
Bacon responded: "This does not address contraception at all. This is abortion-inducing drugs."
The legislation now returns to the Senate to see if that chamber consents to a technical change made by the House.
If re-approved, it will go to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is expected to sign it into law.