January 22, 2016

State lawmakers consider expanding protections for the unborn

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

While pro-life advocates around the United States recognize the importance of January as the month in which is marked the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the country, members of the Indiana General Assembly are considering several bills aimed at enhancing laws to protect the unborn.

Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC), who serves as the legislative and public policy spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Indiana, said, “It’s important that the concern for human life is and continues to be a topic of the legislature. Indiana laws in terms of restrictions and limitations on abortion and promoting life are good, but it’s always important that we keep finding opportunities to enhance those laws to make them stronger. That’s why we are interested in these bills.”

Protecting victims of sexual assault is the subject of two bills this year. House Bill 1064 is authored by Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, and Senate Bill 82 is authored by Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso. The measures remove the parent-child rights from the perpetrator of a rape when a child is conceived.

“The parent-child termination bill does affirm the child’s life, and affirms the birth mother by providing a way for her to not be victimized again as it removes paternity rights from the child’s father who perpetrated the crime,” Tebbe said. “Right now, it looks like a version of this bill has a good chance of passing the legislature.”

House Bill 1064 received a hearing in the House Judiciary committee on Jan. 11, and was passed by the panel. Tebbe said he expects Senate Bill 82 to move in the Senate.

The use and sale of aborted fetal body parts, which has drawn increased criticism of Planned Parenthood nationally and led to an effort to defund the group, will be addressed by lawmakers in the form of proposals dealing with fetal tissue. Senate Bill 77, authored by Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, reaffirms the state’s public policy that aborted fetal body parts are not to be used by a state educational institution or unit of government in Indiana. The proposal prohibits state funding, the use of state facilities or its employees to knowingly participate in research involving these parts.

Senate Bill 5, authored by Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, increases the penalties for unlawful acquisition, reception, sale or transfer of fetal tissue. Another fetal tissue bill, Senate Bill 314, authored by Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, requires that a pregnant woman be informed before her abortion that the fetal tissue will not be used or sold.

Lawmakers will also revisit the issue of perinatal hospice care. Senate Bill 313 provides support for parents who receive a diagnosis of a lethal fetal anomaly. In 2015, lawmakers heard testimony from families who decided not to abort their preborn baby, oftentimes going against the medical prognosis and recommendation that doctors provided. Senate Bill 313, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, requires physicians to provide information about perinatal hospice care to a woman considering an abortion because the child has a diagnosis of a disability.

Proposals have been filed to enhance and amend Indiana’s informed consent law and waiting periods before an abortion. Senate Bill 374, authored by Brent Waltz, R-Columbus, extends the waiting period for an abortion from 18 hours to 48 hours, and increases penalties for abortion-related violations. A bill to improve informed consent for the parents when a minor seeks an abortion has also been introduced before the Indiana General Assembly.

Senate Bill 392 proposes that when the abortion physician receives written consent for the minor to have an abortion, the information must be included in the patient’s medical record. The bill, authored by Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, also tightens up reporting for termination of pregnancy and attaches new penalties for an abortion provider’s failure to report suspected sexual trafficking or child abuse. Rep. Casey Cox, R-Ft. Wayne, is authoring House Bill 1337, a bill to provide informed consent material prior to an abortion in a private setting.

“While it’s too early to predict which bills will pass this year, I suspect many of these pro-life concepts and bills will be rolled into one bill, and move out of the Senate,” Tebbe said. “We will be reporting on those aspects in greater detail once we have a handle on which proposals lawmakers as a whole and legislative leaders in the House and Senate want to move forward.

“The Indiana Catholic Conference will continue to work to promote laws that protect the unborn,” Tebbe continued, “and the good news is Hoosier lawmakers also seem to be in tune with advancing more protections for the unborn.”

As the ICC tracks bills, it posts legislative updates on its Web page. To receive legislative updates via e-mail, join the Indiana Catholic Action Network (ICAN). These and other public policy resources are available at www.indianacc.org.

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

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