Indiana has become the first state since the overruling of Roe v. Wade to outlaw a woman’s fundamental right to an abortion. Senate Bill 1, effective September 15, bans abortion in almost every instance. The few exceptions outlined are very specific and still strictly limited. The bill is also riddled with institutional disincentives for physicians to perform an abortion no matter the circumstances. However, there are still things that can be done to protect women’s bodily autonomy in spite of the bill. First, the nuances and logistics of the bill must be discussed. Doing so will unveil the fallacies and pseudoscientific nonsense pervading the bill.
Let’s first understand the few instances where abortion is exempt under the Bill. First, so long as it’s before the earlier viability of the fetus or 20 weeks postfertilization, an abortion can be performed if it’s to prevent any serious health risk to the pregnant woman or save their life. In every other case, an abortion must be performed before 10 weeks postfertilization. These other cases include pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Abortions performed outside of these conditions can result in a Level 5 felony for the physician. For perspective, this means illegal abortions will carry higher penalties than strangulation and vehicle theft. A level 5 felony carries a maximum sentence of six years and a maximum fine of $10,000. The bill is also infested with other threatening policies and uncertainties. It’s important to know about the following on Senate Bill 1 as well:
Everything wrong with Senate Bill 1
- Section 5 defines rape and incest, but does not consider sexual intercourse with a cousin, stepparent or adoptive parent to be incest. This means that a woman who is pregnant as a result of intercourse with a cousin, stepparent, or adoptive parent could not get an abortion under this bill.
- Section 6 defines serious health risk, and states that the term “does not include psychological or emotional conditions.” This means mental health is disregarded. Health risk here is only defined as physical risk. Even if a pregnant woman is suicidal, that does not constitute a serious health risk under the bill.
- Section 21 cites a dangerous rule for abortions performed due to a serious health risk. The physician must certify in writing that the abortion is being performed to prevent a serious health risk or save the woman’s life. All facts and reasons supporting the certification must also be attached. This means that no matter how emergent the situation is, the physician has to do this before the abortion. This makes the physician spend the valuable time they could be using to save the woman.
- The following statement must be provided orally and in writing to the patient: “Some evidence suggests that the effects of Mifepristone may be avoided, ceased, or reversed if the second pill, Misoprostol, has not been taken. Immediately contact the following for more information at (insert applicable abortion-inducing drug reversal Internet website and corresponding hotline number).”
- It mentions the possibility of abortion reversal, a claim with backings in pseudoscience. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states, “Claims regarding abortion “reversal” treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards.”
- Does not already have an applicable website in place. Where are the sources for the claims made in the bill?
- Section 22 requires that a physician inform a patient orally and in writing of several things dissuading patients from following through with an abortion:
- Another statement affirms the possibility of abortion reversal.
- The risks of having an abortion.
- A statement claims human life begins when the ovum is fertilized by sperm. The physician must state this, no matter their own personal beliefs. This nullifies the philosophical nature of the origin of life, making the statement blatant propaganda.
- The physician must provide pictures, dimensions, and potential survivability of the fetus to the patient.
- A statement claiming objective scientific evidence shows the fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks postfertilization. There is no source provided, and it disregards the fact that pain itself is subjective. It is also very vague. It fails to mention that the first neurobiological development that would allow for some semblance of pain occurs seven weeks postfertilization.
- Fetal auscultation of heart tone and ultrasound imaging are available for the pregnant woman.
- Section 24 requires parental permission for unemancipated minors seeking an abortion. It doesn’t include minors pregnant as a result of rape/incest from a parent or legal guardian. There is a process to waive this requirement, but it involves a court process. If a minor intends to waive the requirement, the parent/guardian is notified of their intention as well (unless the juvenile court deems it better for them not to be). The court must make a decision on whether to accept the waiver within 48 hours of it being submitted. This adds unnecessary stress and anxiety for a minor who is likely already undergoing a traumatic situation.
- Section 27 specifies a report that must be filed alongside every abortion. This report includes personal information about the patient, the physician, and the logistics of the abortion. It also cites that the state department will publish a public report on a quarterly basis detailing some of the aforementioned information. Although it specifies that none of the patient’s personal information will be revealed, it doesn’t make the same specification with the physician’s personal information. There is no provision preventing the state from revealing the full name and address of physicians who perform an abortion under this section. This could jeopardize the safety of physicians, and dissuade them from performing abortions. Also, if a physician fails to transmit the form in a “timely” manner, they commit a class B misdemeanor.
- Section 41 states that the board will revoke a physician’s license if they didn’t submit a form to the state department of health if the Attorney General proves this by a preponderance of evidence. They can also revoke their license if the Attorney General proves by a preponderance of evidence a physician performed an illegal abortion. While acknowledging this, keep in mind the current Attorney General of Indiana, Todd Rokita, is being sued for defamation for threatening to criminally prosecute an abortion doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old girl from Ohio.
What can be done to help?
Regardless of whether abortion is good or bad, Senate Bill 1 does nothing to solve anything. It will not prevent women from getting abortions. It will prevent women from getting safe abortions. Abortion will become an unsafe underground practice in Indiana.
Fortunately, the right to travel across state lines to receive an abortion cannot be taken away under the Constitution. Those seeking an abortion in Indiana after this bill comes into effect can travel to Illinois or Michigan to receive an abortion. With the midterm elections less than 8 weeks after the bill takes effect, Hoosiers have a chance to vote out officials who denied women access to healthcare. In east-central Indiana, Ron Itnyre and C. Yvonne Washington are candidates who will work to protect reproductive freedom. Both face anti-choice candidates, Brad Barrett and Jeff Raatz respectively. You can help the fight for women’s rights by supporting Ron’s campaign. No matter what befalls Indiana, Hoosiers must act to preserve their inalienable rights and never forget the liberties that can’t be taken away from them.
Derbyshire, S. W. G. (2006, April 15). Can fetuses feel pain? BMJ (Clinical research ed.). Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1440624/
Medication abortion reversal is not supported by science. ACOG. (n.d.). Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://www.acog.org/advocacy/facts-are-important/medication-abortion-reversal-is-not-supported-by-science
Miranda, A. (2022, July 19). Indiana doctor moves toward suing Ag who threatened to charge her over 10-year-old’s abortion. POLITICO. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/19/indiana-doctor-ag-10-year-old-abortion-00046543
SB 1, 2022 General Assembly, 2022 Spec. Sess. (Ind. 2022). http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2022ss1/bills/senate/1#document-ea18ee28