February 11, 2011

Lawmakers work to curb abortion, improve informed consent law

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

Pro-life lawmakers will work this year to curb abortions in Indiana by improving the information that women receive before they consider having an abortion.

“The Indiana Catholic Conference is supportive of legislation to provide more complete information about abortion to help mothers choose life for their unborn baby,” said Glenn Tebbe, the Indiana Catholic Conference executive director.

Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, said the goal of her pro-life bill, Senate Bill 328, is to: “ensure the safety of the woman, provide the mother with as much information as possible to make a good and informed decision, and provide enough information that the mother understands that there is a child involved.”

Miller’s bill has several components. The information provided to the mother must be given in writing 18 hours prior to an abortion. Current law allows this information to be given verbally.

Adoption alternatives would be made available, including the possibility that adoptive parents may be responsible for some of the expenses of carrying the baby to term.

Prior to the abortion, the mother would be notified that human physical life begins at conception, and informed of the medical evidence of fetal pain to her child during the abortion. Also, the expectant mother will be given the risks associated with abortion and carrying the baby to full term.

Senate Bill 328 would make abortion doctors accountable for complications caused by an abortion, and provide for follow-up treatment by the same doctor if needed. Under the bill, abortion doctors would be required to have hospital admitting privileges in the county where they performed the abortion or in the counties adjacent to where the abortion is provided.

“The abortion doctor performs the abortion and leaves,” Miller said. “[In some cases,] the woman has complications and ends up in an emergency room, and is too embarrassed to tell the [emergency room] physician why she is bleeding.” The admitting privilege’s provision of the bill provides the follow-up care needed by the doctor who performed the abortion.

Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, also will author a bill, Senate Bill 457, which would strengthen Indiana’s informed consent law for abortion.

Walker said his proposal would apply today’s customary standards in the medical marketplace to patients considering abortion. His bill would expand informed consent to include potential danger of infertility and danger to a subsequent pregnancy; possible risks of infection, hemorrhage or breast cancer; physicians’ 24-hour emergency contact information; availability of follow-up care; documentation showing human physical life begins at conception; and materials citing sources who say a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks of post-fertilization age.

“If passed by the 2011 Indiana General Assembly, Senate Bill 457 would expand Indiana’s informed consent law, ensuring Hoosier women are well-informed before making a life-changing decision,” Walker said. “Currently, state law requires information about abortion to be given verbally to women considering this procedure. During such a trying time, it may be difficult for them to internalize such information without having the documents needed to study and read in private.”

While Miller said she agrees with the intent of Walker’s bill, given the state’s fiscal problems, she believes it would be prudent to combine the two pieces of legislation because bills introduced this year must be revenue neutral—meaning they cannot cost the state anything to implement.

“Our plan is to amend Sen. Walker’s bill, Senate Bill 457, into my bill, Senate Bill 328, and remove the fiscal impact to the Indiana Department of Health in the process so that the bill can move forward in the process,” Miller said.

“This bill is not new,” Miller said. “It has passed the Senate in years past, but then did not get a hearing in the House. I’m optimistic the bill will pass the Senate and the House this year.”

In 2007, the Indiana Department of Health reported that 10,887 unborn babies were aborted in Indiana. Eighty-two percent of Indiana women who got abortions were unmarried. Women in the age category of 20 to 24 years received the highest number of abortions in the state at 33 percent. The second highest category was women age 25 to 29, who received 24 percent of the state’s abortions.

Sixty-four percent of the abortions were done on white women, 29 percent on black women, 3 percent on women of other races and ethnicities, and 4 percent on women of unknown race.

According to a 2010 study by the Guttmacher Institute, 27 states require parental consent for abortion when a minor is involved, including Indiana.

Thirty-four states, including Indiana, require counseling prior to an abortion. As part of the counseling, seven states include information on the increased risk of developing breast cancer as a result of having an abortion. Twenty-one states require information regarding the negative mental impact that abortion has on the mother. Indiana is among the nine states that offer ultrasounds prior to an abortion.

If Miller’s bill passes this year, Indiana would join 10 states that believe the fetus may feel pain during the abortion.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

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