The Indiana legislature began its 2015 session on Tuesday, and while state lawmakers have yet to file any bills to revise an anti-choice state law struck down by the courts, at least one bill has been filed to further restrict reproductive rights in the state.
A state lawmaker has filed a bill that would ban a physician from performing an abortion if the provider knows the pregnant woman is seeking to terminate the pregnancy due to the sex of the fetus or because of a diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other disability. SB 334, filed by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle), would make it level 5 felony if an abortion is performed under those circumstances.
The bill has the support of Indiana’s anti-choice organizations.
“We support the bill, because we don’t believe an unborn child should be discriminated against based on disability or sex,” Mike Fichter, president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, told the Indianapolis Star.
Holdman did not respond the Star’s request for comment.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky President and CEO Betty Cockrum told the Star she was concerned about the breadth of the bill, which would apply the ban to both a diagnosis or “potential diagnosis” of a disability.
“Indiana is one of the most highly regulated, least accessible states in the country when it comes to abortion and reproductive health care,” Cockrum told the Star. She criticized state lawmakers for seeking “to erect barriers” rather than seeking to reduce unintended pregnancies.
There is no documentation that sex-selection abortions are a widespread problem in the United States. Proponents of the bans often justify them by using cultural stereotypes that target immigrant women of color.
A report from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum found that the bans target and “thus limits reproductive health access for Asian American and Pacific Islander women.”
The bill is similar to Indiana’s SB 183, which failed to pass in 2013. That bill included more specific language that defined what other types of disabilities would be included in the ban.
SB 183 defined a “genetic abnormality” as “any defect, disease, or disorder that is inherited genetically. The term includes any physical disfigurement, scoliosis, dwarfism, Down syndrome, albinism, amelia, or any other type of physical or mental disability, abnormality, or disease.”
HB 1430, another bill that was introduced in 2013, was also similar to SB 334 except that HB 1430 included a race-selection ban (which SB 334 does not) and did not include a disability ban.
Several bills to ban sex-selective or race-selection abortion have been introduced in state legislatures over the past few years. Most have failed to pass. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill banning sex-selective abortions in March 2014, and North Carolina passed a sex-selective abortion ban in 2013.
The bill has been referred to the state senate’s Health and Provider Services Committee.