Fetal Anomalies and Medication Abortion Next Targets of Indiana’s Anti-Choice Legislature

In Indiana, abortion restrictions are coming by the dozen.

Betty Cockrum in front of the Indiana state capitol. (The Daily Caller)

Indiana Right to Life has jumped into the 2013 legislative session with both feet, proposing a dozen new abortion and birth control restrictions for the state. Despite their senate loss and the near defeat of Mike Pence’s gubernatorial run, the GOP has decided to take its veto-proof majority in the legislature and use it to create as many new roadblocks to women’s health as it can.

Some of the bills are mostly nuisance, such as the bills in the House and Senate requiring so-called “informed consent” materials be handed out in pamphlet form rather than be available over the internet. Others, such as SB 489, would change the law from voluntary viewing of ultrasound into a forced viewing, and would also force women to sign a certified document if she wishes to opt out of listening to the heartbeat.

Then there are the bills that were expected but still a disappointment, such as the bill to require the sole Planned Parenthood clinic that offers medication abortions but not surgical abortions to redefine itself as a surgical center, with all of the licensing and upgrades required to meet those provisions, or the bill that will force medication abortions to be done via the outdated FDA protocol, and only by physicians with hospital admitting privileges.

Still, the state has managed a few surprises. A new proposed “conscience” bill would, like the one in Kansas, ensure that “a health care professional may not be required to dispense a drug or medical device if the health care professional believes the drug or medical device would be used to: (1) cause an abortion; (2) destroy an unborn child.” The “believes” language could open up denial of emergency contraception and every day hormonal birth control as well for the number of far right providers convinced that mini-abortions are being caused by the use of the pill.

In fact, a quick look at an Indiana Right to Life “call to action” supports the assumption that they aren’t just coming for RU-486 when they talk about conscience protections.

Statehouse Alert.

An important bill has been introduced in the Indiana House that will protect Indiana health care professionals from being forced to dispense drugs that will be used to

kill unborn children or facilitate euthanasia or assisted suicide.  The bill is authored by Rep. Steve Davisson.

Health care professionals urgently need this protection as chemical abortions continue to rise in Indiana and as pressure will rise to support euthanasia and assisted suicide under expected Obamacare health rationing.

Currently there is no hearing scheduled for House Bill 1461.

Call your state representative today at: (800) 382-9842 and ask him or her to press immediately for a hearing on House Bill 1461. Stress that health professionals need this protection in Indiana NOW.

Most surprising, however, is a ban on “special circumstances” abortions, where one legislator has taken a previously unheard of step to ban abortions not just in alleged cases of gender or race,  but in case of fetal anomaly.

Yes, it will now be illegal to terminate a pregnancy in the case of a genetic issue or other health problem with the fetus.

Chapter 3. Sex-Selective and Genetic Abnormality Abortion Ban
    Sec. 1. As used in this chapter, “Down syndrome” means a chromosomal disorder associated with an extra chromosome 21 or an effective trisomy for chromosome 21.
    Sec. 2. As used in this chapter, “genetic abnormality” means any disease, defect, or disorder that is genetically inherited. The term includes the following:
        (1) A physical disability.
        (2) A mental disability or retardation.
        (3) A physical disfigurement.
        (4) Scoliosis.
        (5) Dwarfism.
        (6) Down syndrome.
        (7) Albinism.
        (8) Amelia.
        (9) A physical or mental abnormality or disease.
     Sec. 3. As used in this chapter, “sex-selective abortion” means an abortion that is performed solely because of the gender of the fetus.
     Sec. 4. (a) A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion before the earlier of viability of the fetus or twenty (20) weeks of postfertilization age if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking a sex-selective abortion.
     (b) A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion after viability or twenty (20) weeks of postfertilization if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking a sex-selective abortion.
    (c) This section is severable as specified in IC 1-1-1-8.
     Sec. 5. (a) A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion before the earlier of viability of the fetus or twenty (20) weeks of postfertilization age if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential for Down syndrome.

Unlike Virginia, which tried to ban Medicaid payments for abortions of women who terminated due to severe fetal defects, assuming that the lack of funds for an expensive later abortion would force her into giving birth, Indiana will try to cut off the decision from families all together. It’s a tactic that North Dakota introduced a few weeks earlier, and will likely continue to pop up across the country.

In the face of this onslaught of restrictions on a woman’s right to an abortion (or birth control, or general decisions about personal family medical needs), you would think that Betty Cockrum, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, would be despondent about the start of the session, but she’s not at all. “We have a dozen. Two years ago we had seventeen of them,” she joked. “I’m actually feeling very encouraged by this.”

Cockrum knew heading into the 2013 session that trying to pass legislation that would affect the Lafayette clinic, the sole Planned Parenthood to offer medication but not surgical abortions, would be foremost on the agenda. The proposed two tier approach—both via requiring licensing for the clinic and the move to demand an adherence to FDA protocol versus medical best practices—confirms that suspicion.

The “conscience” bill also remains a cause for worry because of it’s highly interpretable, open language, which could be used to justify refusal in so many reproductive care situations. “It’s pretty overreaching,” agreed Cockrum, referring to the “believes may cause abortion” language. “We are doing a lot of outreach with legislative leadership about these issues at this juncture and have reason to believe that there will be some public discussion of abortion-related legislation this session. It remains to be seen if this bill will be one. I think the focus is on further regulation of medication abortion.”

“We think that medication abortion is the priority this year,” continued Cockrum. “The concern then going all of the way until midnight April 29th is will it get loaded with language from other bills.”

With a full dozen bills to choose from, parceling snippets of one bill into another could potentially make for one massive “superbill,” and that would be a major concern for those who are fighting for reproductive rights. As last year’s HB 1210 shows, a lot of restrictions can get packed into just one new law. But Cockrum has a surprisingly optimistic view that legislators are willing to be open to discussion about real impact of abortion bans and political interference in the medical process.

“Last year the Right to Life Women testified that we need to use FDA protocols and that it is all in the interest of patient safety. We had testimony from from a couple of doctors who said ‘We just want to make sure that everyone understands that it is triple the dosage.’ It was an embarrassing moment for them. We are trying to make sure that Senator  [Travis Holdman, bill sponsor] understands that this will happen again, and he is paying attention to our arguments. That doesn’t mean we will prevail. But it’s certainly encouraging to know he wants to know why we have these concerns and that this is not a political or ideological argument.”

For Cockrum, the battle to keep abortion and birth control accessible will be the same as it is each year — remind politicians that they shouldn’t play doctor. “It’s just not good public policy for legislators to intrude into doctor patient relationships, or to tell medical practitioners how to do their jobs.”