Vice President Kamala Harris said a proposal from Indiana Republicans to ban nearly all abortions in the state reflects a health care crisis in the country and she met Monday with Democratic state legislators on the first day of a contentious special legislative session on the issue.
Harris traveled to Indianapolis as several thousand people on both sides of the issue filled Statehouse corridors and lined sidewalks surrounding the building as a state Senate committee was set to begin hearing testimony on the Republican-sponsored proposal.
Indiana is one of the first Republican-run state legislatures to debate tighter abortion laws following the U.S. Supreme Court decision last month overturning Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
“Maybe some people need to actually learn how a woman’s body works,” Harris said Monday, eliciting murmurs and laughs from the Democratic legislators. “The parameters that are being proposed mean that for the vast majority of women, by the time she realizes she is pregnant, she will be prohibited from having access to reproductive health care that will allow her to choose what will happen to her life.”
Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta said the proposed ban would have “drastic consequences for women, especially for women of color and low-income women, who are already disproportionately impacted by getting adequate health care access.”
Indiana’s Republican Senate leaders proposed a bill last week that would prohibit abortions from the time an egg is implanted in a woman’s uterus with limited exceptions — in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. The ban could result in more patients crossing from Indiana into Illinois, which is the only Midwest state where abortion is legalized.
"Being about pro-life is not about criminalizing women," said the bill's author, Indiana Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange. "It’s about preserving the dignity of life and helping mothers bring happy and health babies into the world."
The proposal followed the political firestorm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to end her pregnancy.
“She is a baby,” Democratic Rep. Cherrish Pryor of Indianapolis, one of the lawmakers at the meeting with Harris, said of the child. “Why should we force babies to have babies?”
The case of the Ohio girl gained wide attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the child had to go to Indiana because Ohio banned abortions at the first detectable “fetal heartbeat” after the Supreme Court’s abortion decision.
The ultimate fate of the Indiana abortion bill in the Republican-dominated Legislature is uncertain, as leaders of Indiana Right to Life, the state’s most prominent anti-abortion group, are decrying the Senate proposal as weak and lacking enforcement provisions.
Republican Senate leaders said the bill would not add new criminal penalties against doctors involved with abortions, but they would face possibly having their medical licenses revoked for breaking the law. Three more hours of public testimony are scheduled Tuesday, with a final vote expected on Friday.