April 17, 2009

ICC’s pro-life agenda headed toward homestretch

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

The Indiana Catholic Conference’s (ICC) pro-life legislative agenda is headed toward the homestretch.

Several abortion-related bills supported by the ICC are moving forward with less than two weeks to go before the April 29 session adjournment deadline.

Senate Bill 89 requires physicians performing abortions to obtain hospital privileges in the county where the abortion is performed or in a nearby county for the purpose of follow-up treatment for a woman who has had an abortion. It passed the House Public Policy Committee by an 8-4 vote.

“The purpose of the bill is to make sure that the doctor is available for follow-up treatment if a woman has complications due to the abortion,” said Sen. Patricia Miller (R-Indianapolis), the bill’s author. The bill is expected to pass the House.

ICC supports Senate Bill 89.

Also part of the ICC’s legislative agenda is a bill to increase the penalty for killing the unborn, a crime known as feticide. The Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 236 by a 96-0 vote on April 6 to create harsher penalties for killing the unborn.

Senate Bill 236 would change this crime from a Class C felony to a Class B felony, which would increase the prison term for the offense. An individual who is convicted of a Class C felony could receive a prison term ranging from two to eight years. A person convicted of a Class B felony can receive a prison term ranging from six to 20 years.

Feticide is the deliberate killing of the fetus, except in an abortion. The primary focus of Senate Bill 236 provides for an increased penalty when a pregnancy ends as a result of an individual committing or attempting to commit a crime against the mother. The bill defines this crime as “termination of human pregnancy,” and is consistent with the current feticide statute. Supporters also say it’s easier for prosecutors to argue in courts.

“This bill creates a measure of justice for families whose unborn children are murdered as a result of violent crimes,” said Rep. Mike Murphy (R-Indianapolis), one of the House sponsors of the bill.

Senate members are likely to concur with the changes in Senate Bill 236. The bill is expected to reach Gov. Mitch Daniels for his signature before the end of the session.

Senate Bill 341, which addresses the wrongful injury or death of a fetus, will likely not pass this session. The proposal passed the Senate by a 47-2 vote, but was not debated or voted on in the House because of amendments that attempted to extend the liability beyond a viable fetus, which is the intent of the bill. This bill applies to civil suits.

Rep. Peggy Welch (D-Bloomington) had hoped to bring the bill back for discussion, but couldn’t get an agreement from lawmakers who wanted to amend the bill. The bill may be resurrected by being amended to a similar subject bill in conference committee. The ICC supports the bill.

Senate Bill 296, a proposal to change the execution times and initiate a study of death row inmate housing, passed in the Senate by a 48-0 vote. In its original form, the bill would have forced death-row inmates to move to another correctional facility where only solitary confinement cells were available.

Because of the detrimental effects to the human person, the Church opposed this aspect of the bill. The ICC successfully worked to get the bill amended to study death-row inmate housing rather than forcing inmates to move into solitary confinement for up to a decade or more prior to execution.

Senate Bill 528, the school scholarship tax credit, was amended into House Bill 1001, the budget bill, by the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 9.

“This provides an excellent vehicle for passage this session,” said Glenn Tebbe, ICC executive director. “Because Senate Bill 528 did not get a hearing in the House, the only way for it to pass was to have it become part of another bill.

“Having a place within the budget is better than having to insert it during budget negotiations or working separately in another bill,” Tebbe said. “We are very pleased with the Senate’s action.”

House bills must have been passed by the Senate and Senate bills by the House by the April 16 deadline to move forward.

However, bills which have passed at least one chamber could be resurrected and amended into an existing bill with a similar subject during the conference committee phase of the session beginning on April 16.

The Indiana General Assembly must pass a biennium budget and adjourn by April 29. The ICC is hopeful that many of the bills it has supported will pass this year.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion. To learn more about the Indiana Catholic Conference, log on to www.indianacc.org.)

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