An abortion ban is set to take effect in Indiana, which was the first state to pass one after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
When the law starts being enforced on Thursday, Indiana will join more than a dozen states with abortion bans, though most were approved before that Supreme Court ruling and took effect once the court threw out the constitutional right to end a pregnancy.
West Virginia legislators approved an abortion ban on Tuesday and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced a bill that would ban abortion nationwide after the 15th week of pregnancy, with rare exceptions, intensifying the ongoing debate inside and outside of the GOP though the proposal has almost no chance of becoming law in the Democratic-held Congress.
Abortion rights supporters have filed two lawsuits trying to block Indiana officials from enforcing the ban but no court rulings have been issued yet and all seven of the state's abortion clinics will lose their licenses to perform the procedure under the new law.
What’s Covered in the Abortion Ban?
The Indiana ban includes exceptions allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest before the 10th week of pregnancy and to protect the mother's life and physical health. It also allows them if the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal anomaly. The ban will replace state laws that generally prohibited abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and tightly restricted it after the 13th week.
Under the new law, abortions can be performed only in hospitals or outpatient centers owned by hospitals, meaning all abortion clinics will lose their licenses. Any doctors found to have performed an illegal abortion would be stripped of their medical license and could face felony charges punishable by up to six years in prison.
How is Indiana’s Action Unique?
Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature approved the ban during a two-week special legislative session following a political firestorm over a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the state from neighboring Ohio to end her pregnancy. The case gained worldwide attention when an Indianapolis doctor said the girl came to Indiana because of Ohio’s ban on abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy and is often before the mother knows she's pregnant.
The Republicans who passed Indiana's ban were deeply divided over whether to include exceptions beyond one for protecting the mother’s life, such as for cases of rape and incest.
Similar divides among Republicans over such exceptions and whether to allow criminal charges against doctors stalled bills on tighter abortion restrictions in West Virginia and South Carolina this summer. The ban that West Virginia legislators passed Tuesday is similar to Indiana's and it now heads to Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who is expected to sign it into law.
What is Happening to Indiana's Abortion Clinics?
Indiana abortion clinic operators have told The Associated Press that they'll stop offering abortions when the ban takes effect but continue to support patients with information about out-of-state clinics. Planned Parenthood plans to keep its four Indiana clinics that offer abortions open and provide sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and contraception and cancer screenings, which it says comprise the bulk of its services.
Indiana University Health, the state’s largest hospital system, has set up advisory teams that include a lawyer for consultations on whether patients meet the legal requirements for abortions. Indiana hospitals performed 133 of the 8,414 abortions reported to the state Department of Health in 2021, with the remaining 98% taking place at clinics.
What is Status of Lawsuits?
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed two lawsuits in the past two weeks seeking to stop the ban from taking effect.
One argues that the ban violates the Indiana Constitution by infringing on the right to privacy and the guarantee of equal privileges. The other claims the ban conflicts with the state's religious freedom law that Indiana Republicans passed in 2015 and that sparked a widespread backlash from critics who said it allowed discrimination against gay people.
The question of whether the state constitution protects abortion rights is undecided. A state appeals court ruled in 2004 that privacy is a core value under the state constitution that extends to all residents, including women seeking an abortion. But the Indiana Supreme Court later upheld a law requiring an 18-hour waiting period before a woman could get an abortion, though it didn't decide whether the state constitution included the right to privacy or abortion.
Indiana University law professor Daniel Conkle said bringing the lawsuits so soon before the ban was set to effect made it hard to get an injunction blocking it, but that it taking effect won't end the court fight.