INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana is poised to become the second state to ban abortions sought because a fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome under a measure headed to Gov. Mike Pence for approval.
Lawmakers on Wednesday approved the measure banning such abortions over the objections of many female legislators, including Republicans who say the bill goes too far and wasn't vetted enough before receiving approval in the House. In a statement, a Pence spokeswoman said the conservative Republican is "a strong supporter of the right to life" and said he will "give this legislation thoughtful consideration once it reaches his desk."
The measure would also allow doctors who perform abortions in such cases to be sued for wrongful death.
"Those unborn children are Hoosiers and they have constitutional rights," House Speaker Brian Bosma said after the vote. "We're not making a determination about women's' health. We are trying to protect the right of the unborn they cannot speak for themselves."
But critics say the measure would require pregnant women to endure complicated pregnancies that pose a danger to their health and would lead women to not speak candidly with their doctors.
"The bill does nothing to save innocent lives. There's no education, there's no funding. It's just penalties," said Rep. Sharon Negele, an Attica Republican who last year sponsored an anti-abortion bill that would have imposed tougher restrictions for a Planned Parenthood clinic.
North Dakota is the only state to ban abortions sought because of genetic fetal abnormalities, although similar measures have been debated in other states, including Ohio.
Critics in Indiana question whether the measure is constitutional, and even Bosma said he expects a court challenge if Pence signs the bill into law.
The GOP-controlled House voted 60-40 Wednesday in favor of the bill, which had already been approved in the Senate.
Many opponents objected to the way the House went about approving the measure. An earlier version that was passed by the House did not include the ban, which was added in the Senate. Rather than send the bill to committee to negotiate details, GOP House leaders sent it to the floor for a vote, under a procedural maneuver that did not allow lawmakers to make changes.
"It saddens me and makes me sick to my stomach to be up here right now," Rep. Wendy McNamara, a Republican from Evansville, said during debate. "It's bills like these that make people like me really hate the system."
The measure includes other provisions regulating the handling of miscarried or aborted fetuses, requiring abortion providers to cremate or bury fetuses.
It also would make it a felony to transfer fetal tissue, a move aimed at Planned Parenthood after secretly recorded videos showed officials with the organization discussing how they sometimes supply fetal tissue to scientists.
Rep. Sean Eberhart, a Shelbyville Republican who voted against the measure, said he had a long discussion about the bill with his wife, who is about "as pro-life as they come" and decided that he needed to speak out.
"Today is a perfect example a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women," Eberhart said. "We need to quit pretending we know what's best for women and their health care needs."