Indiana Shoots Down Rape/Incest Abortion Exceptions

| Fri Apr. 1, 2011 2:27 PM EDT

The Indiana House yesterday passed a bill, HB 1210, that would force women to carry pregnancies past 22 weeks to term, even if the father of the fetus is their rapist or family member. The only reason a woman could get an abortion after 22 weeks (and most medical experts don't consider a fetus viable until around 27 weeks) is if carrying the fetus to term would result in the woman's death or "substantial physical impairment." Even then, her doctor would be required by law to perform the abortion in a hospital with a prenatal unit, and in the way that "would result in the best opportunity for the fetus to survive."

The bill passed with overwhelming support, 72-23. State representative Gail Riecken, a Democrat, tried to amend the bill to include exceptions for rape or incest, but her amendment failed. Among the amendment's critics was Rep. Eric Turner (Republican), who wrote HB 1210. He argued that the amendment would provide a "loophole" to women who wanted abortions. They would, he suggested, lie about being raped. "I don't want to disparage in any way someone who's gone through the experience of a rape, or incest," Turner said, "but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they've been raped or there's incest."

Turner's statement was quickly followed up by Rep. Linda Lawson (D), who worked as a sex crime investigator for six years. After being instructed to "take a minute" to "collect herself," Lawson fiercely rebutted Turner's claims. "I don't think anybody in this room has ever sat where I sat... They [women] don't make it up!" Video of Lawson and Turner below.

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Aside from requiring women who've been raped or who are victims of incest to give birth to their offender's child, the bill has a number of requirements that push a pro-life agenda, sometimes in defiance of medical data. Among them:

--Women seeking a first-trimester abortion must be advised that they may face increased risk of breast cancer after the abortion, and that giving birth protects women from breast cancer.

--Women seeking abortions must be advised that "physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm."

--Abortion patients are advised that "medical evidence shows that a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks".

--Before an abortion, the woman must view an ultrasound unless she certifies, in writing, in advance, that she does not wish to do so.

Pro-life advocates are hailing the passage of the bill as a victory. Indiana Right to Life president Mike Fichter said the bill "gives women better information before making abortion decisions." Others contend that it requires medical practitioners to give misleading and disproven information to patients. For example, though the bill requires health providers to advise women that their risk of breast cancer would increase after an abortion, the studies suggesting this link have been discredited and the American Cancer Society says that "induced abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk." The age at which a fetus can feel pain is also disputed: the studies which do say fetuses can feel pain often put the age closer to 29 or 30 weeks.

Despite this, the bill may be headed for the Governor's desk. HB 1210 may fulfill Rep. Eric Turner's goal of making Indiana "one of the most pro-life states in America."

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