Anti-Choice Bills Move Forward in Indiana

A senate bill could target doctors for anti-choice protests, while a house bill would ban private insurance coverage of abortion.

A senate bill could target doctors for anti-choice protests, while a house bill would ban private insurance coverage of abortion. Judge's legal gavel via Shutterstock

The Indiana senate passed a bill Tuesday that opponents fear could make doctors targets of anti-choice protests, while the house passed a bill last week that would ban private insurance coverage of abortion.

SB 292 deals with a requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges with a local hospital, or, barring that, with another doctor who has those privileges. The bill originally got rid of the option to partner with a doctor, which would have made it more difficult for abortion providers to find a willing partner in a state often hostile to reproductive rights. That “backup doctor” option was restored in committee, but the revised bill still allows the names of those backup doctors to be released to the public.

Advocates are concerned that those doctors could become a target for anti-choice protests, which can sometimes become personal and violent.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that they think it’s OK to introduce what we know to be a real risk to provider and/or a backup doctor,” Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, told Rewire. “We have a history with some really ugly behavior at private homes as well as at our health centers.”

Cockrum said that protesters, sometimes bearing loaded guns, have come to the private homes of providers several times over the last four years, often on holidays or during events like the Super Bowl.

“We are not making this up. We’re not being drama queens. It’s real,” Cockrum said.

The bill passed after a third reading in the senate this morning and will now move to the house.

Meanwhile, HB 1123 would make Indiana the tenth state in the country to prohibit private insurance from covering abortions. That bill passed the state house last week and now moves to the senate.

Indiana’s bill, unlike a controversial measure in Michigan dubbed “rape insurance” by some of its opponents, would provide an exception for rape and incest, as well as a health exception. But that exception would only cover life endangerment or the “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” not mental health or fetal anomaly.

As in Michigan, Indiana’s bill would allow insurers to offer a separate rider for abortion coverage. But insurers rarely if ever offer such riders, and advocates say that women may not think to buy them even if they are available. A study by the Guttmacher Institute found that women forced to pay for an abortion out of pocket spent an average of $485, sometimes forgoing paying rent or utilities to pay for the procedure.

Fewer anti-choice bills have been filed this session in Indiana than in previous years, but medically unnecessary regulations of abortion providers remain a sticking point. A trial date has been set for June of 2015 in a legal challenge to a 2013 law that would have targeted a medication abortion provider for closure. That clinic remains open while the case proceeds.