March 4, 2011

Bills to strengthen informed consent and marriage advance in legislature

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

In spite of a walkout by most House Democrats protesting proposed labor and school choice legislation, the Indiana Senate passed a bill to improve Indiana’s informed consent law for abortion.

And legislation to protect marriage also advanced as the General Assembly last week reached the halfway point of its legislative session.

The Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC), the public policy arm of Indiana’s bishops and the official representative of the Church, has worked this year to support both legislative efforts to curb abortion and protect marriage.

The informed consent bill, Senate Bill 328, is authored by Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. Jim Banks,

R-Columbia City. It would expand the amount of information required to be given to a patient prior to her receiving an abortion.

Part of the additional information covered in the bill relates to possible side effects of abortion, including infertility, dangers to a subsequent pregnancy, and risks of infection, hemorrhage and breast cancer. The bill would also require mothers seeking an abortion to be told that human physical life begins at conception and be given materials citing professionals who say that a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks of post-fertilization age.

Finally, Senate Bill 328 would ensure that the physicians’ 24-hour emergency contact information and documentation regarding follow-up care would be given prior to an abortion.

The bill requires that the information be provided to the mother in writing 18 hours prior to an abortion and made available online by the Indiana Department of Health.

Current law allows information to be given verbally. Adoption alternatives would also be made available, including the possibility that adoptive parents may be responsible for some of the expenses of carrying the baby to term.

“For any minor surgeries, doctors are required to explain procedures to patients in detail,” Banks said. “Senate Bill 328 would ensure that women who seek abortions are given that same consideration and access to information.”

Banks said the proposal would apply today’s customary standards in the medical marketplace to provide patients with verbal and printed information about a medical procedure. The Senate passed the bill on Feb. 22. ICC supports the bill.

The marriage amendment resolution, House Joint Resolution 6, is sponsored by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, and Rep. David Cheatham, D-North Vernon. It provides for an addition of a marriage amendment to the Indiana Constitution.

“The legislation would affirm current Indiana law that marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Glenn Tebbe, the ICC executive director. “It would also prohibit civil unions for same-sex couples.”

The language in the proposed amendment is the same as legislation passed in Kentucky and Wisconsin. The resolution must be passed during the 2011 Indiana General Assembly, and during another General Assembly in 2013 or 2014 before the amendment could be placed on the ballot for voters.

“Indiana’s law has been supported by Indiana courts, and only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized in Indiana,” Tebbe said, “but without a constitutional amendment ensuring that marriage is between a man and woman, a future court challenge could result in Indiana recognizing same-sex marriage.”

The resolution passed on Feb. 15 by a 70-26 vote. ICC supports House Joint Resolution 6, and legislation that strengthens marriage.

Children who attend non-public schools and need special education services will have a better chance to receive them under the special education grants proposal, which passed the House by a 91-1 vote on Feb. 10.

The Special Education Grants legislation, House Bill 1341, is authored by Rep. Bob Behning,

R-Indianapolis. It requires that state funds designated for special-needs students enrolled in non-public schools be spent on their behalf. Under current law, there is no requirement that such money be spent for them if they are enrolled in a non-public school.

Behning said the goal of the bill is to ensure that the children attending non-public schools receive a proportional share of the services that would further their education.

John Elcesser, the Indiana Non-Public Education Association (INPEA) executive director, who testified in support of the bill, said it has been estimated that up to $11 million are designated annually for non-public school students with disabilities.

“If all that money was being spent on direct services to those students, I think the impact could be enormous,” Elcesser said. ICC supports the bill.

Twenty-three bills died on the House side of the General Assembly as a result of some House Democrat members leaving the state in protest during last week’s legislative business.

Unless the deadline is extended, the school scholarship bill, House Bill 1003, will also fail. Under the proposal, families that qualify are eligible for scholarships to use at the private school of their choice. Families of lower to moderate income whose children are currently enrolled in a public school will be eligible. ICC supports the school choice measure.

The Indiana General Assembly has reached its halfway point for the 2011 session, also commonly referred to as “crossover.” House bills which passed move or cross over to the Senate, and Senate bills which passed now cross over to the House side for consideration.

The Indiana General Assembly must pass a two-year budget by the April 29 adjournment deadline or Gov. Mitch Daniels will have to call a special session to complete a state budget before it goes into effect on July 1.

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

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