Pence Signs Controversial Abortion Bill Into Law

UPDATE: 4/15/16 Changed pro-life to anti-abortion to maintain AP Style.

Governor Mike Pence signed a bill into law on March 24 that puts numerous restrictions on women who could need an abortion.

The new law, HEA 1337, states that an abortion cannot be performed because of the race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the fetus, or in the case of a diagnosis or potential diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other disability. North Dakota is the only other state that has measures that prevent abortion because of Down syndrome or other disabilities. Other states have laws in place to prevent abortions based on sex.

According to the new law Indiana women who want an abortion must now view an ultrasound and hear a heartbeat at least 18 hours before any abortion procedure is performed.

HEA 1337 passed earlier this month in a 60-40 vote in the House, and 37-13 in the Senate. In the weeks after its passing, Gov. Pence kept quiet on his intentions regarding the bill, but ultimately Gov. Pence signed the legislation.

In a statement released following the signing of the bill, Pence said:

“Throughout my public career, I have stood for the sanctity of life. HEA 1337 is a comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life, which is why I signed it into law today. I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable—the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn.”

The new law also affects Indiana doctors. A doctor that performs an abortion on a fetus with disabilities can be sued for wrongful death under HEA 1337. It also created a requirement that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges in hospitals. Admitting privileges means that a doctor who has a membership at any particular hospital can admit patients into that hospital.

However, since 1986, the United States has had a federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). This law means that anyone with an emergency medical condition or in active labor has to be admitted by a hospital, regardless of whether or not they can pay.

HEA 1337, also requires that miscarried and aborted fetuses must be cremated or buried. Under the new bill, individuals cannot “acquire, receive, sell, or transfer fetal tissue.” This aspect of the bill is similar to SB 314 and SB 77, which were both introduced in January. Both of these bills would make it illegal to use fetal tissue for anything other than disposal. Fetal tissue is currently used in medical research for various diseases and medical conditions.

The bill has been a topic of discussion from people on both sides of the issue. One local organization, Indy Feminists, have been active in protesting the law.

“We were present at the Statehouse on February 17. Members of Indy Feminists testified against HEA 1337 and several shared their own stories of reproductive care,” Mahasin Ameen, an Indy Feminists member, said. “We created a MoveOn.Org petition with over 5,500 signatures that was delivered to the Statehouse on March 14.”

The bill has also split the opinions of Republicans and other anti-abortion supporters.

“Today is a perfect example of a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women,” said Rep. Sean Eberhart, a Republican who described himself as “as pro-life as they come.” 

Supporters of HEA 1337 have applauded the new provisions that the legislation has created.

“We are truly thankful for the passage of this historic legislation by the Indiana House and applaud the new civil rights protections this bill creates for unborn children, as well as the new provisions this bill establishes for the humane final disposition of aborted babies,” Mike Fichter, the President and CEO of Indiana Right to Life said, according to Life News.

“The House leadership listened to our concerns and the concerns of pro-life Hoosiers across Indiana and made it a priority to concur on this bill before tomorrow’s end of the session."

IUPUI students that were asked about HEA 1337 were unaware of the bill and its passing.