CHICAGO - An Indiana House committee voted 8-5 late Tuesday in favor of a measure that would end most abortions. The committee amended a Senate bill calling for a near total ban on the procedure.
As amended, the proposal would still treat abortion as a level five felony — punishable by up to six years in prison — except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life and health of the mother. In those instances, abortion would be allowed only up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy.
Leaders of the Indiana State Medical Association said doctors still fear emergency decisions while treating pregnant patients could put them behind bars.
"We believe that we are still potentially exposed to criminal prosecution under this current bill. And, as such, we are very concerned that this will lead to fewer physicians willing to practice within this state," Dr. Daniel Elliott, an emergency room physician in Indianapolis, told the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee.
Other doctors testified that a recent survey of 300 Indiana physicians in training found 80% less likely to practice in the state if an abortion ban were approved. Pro-life activists dismissed that as scare talk, saying it's past time for the Republican super-majorities in the legislature to deliver on decades of promises.
Chrystal Sisson, an anti-abortion activist, urged a total ban on the procedure.
"I expect that every Republican in here will do their best to abolish abortion," Sisson said.
Some vowed to unseat Republican lawmakers who voted for anything other than a total ban.
David Mervar, an anti-abortion activist who addressed the committee in a red cap emblazoned "MAGA," urged the committee, "Let's end abortion in Indiana. Let's end it!"
The House version limits the procedure to hospitals, surgical centers and birthing centers. It would be banned at what Indiana law currently defines as abortion clinics, including those run by Planned Parenthood. Such clinics performed 98% of Indiana’s abortions last year.
The Indiana House voted to reconvene Thursday at 8 a.m. Chicago time. The only remaining question appears to be how strict Indiana’s new limits on abortion will be.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to block a new anti-abortion law in Idaho.
"Idaho’s law violates the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution," said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The DOJ has weighed in with its interpretation of federal law requiring hospitals to perform abortions if that's what's needed to preserve the health or life of a pregnant woman.
"Although the Idaho law provides an exception to prevent the death of a pregnant woman, it provides no exception for cases in which the abortion is necessary to prevent serious jeopardy to the woman's health," Garland said.
The Idaho law is scheduled to take effect on Aug. 25.
The Biden administration's lawsuit makes it more likely the issue could soon be in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.