West Virginia and Indiana move closer to near-total abortion bans

West Virginia and Indiana got closer to the passing total abortion banned this week after the Supreme Court decision to revoke Roe v. Wade last month.

During special legislative sessions, lawmakers from both states debated bills that aim to ban almost all abortions with few exceptions. The State Capitol buildings were: stuffed up with anti-abortion and abortion rights protesters sparking heated debates and gatherings that dominated local headlines this week. Supporters of both parties testified on their state legislative floors in hopes of influencing the vote of lawmakers.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) is expected to sign his state’s near-total abortion ban in the coming days, after the bill was successfully passed by both houses this week. Indiana’s abortion restriction has yet to go further: It has yet to vote in either chamber, but it was voted 7-5 from the committee on Tuesday. The Indiana state senate is set to vote on the ban on Saturday, and the bill is expected to be passed quickly by the GOP-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican government leader Eric Holcomb.

Indiana currently has seven abortion clinics helping 1.3 million women of childbearing age. West Virginia has one more abortion clinic serving the entire state, serving approximately 313,000 women of childbearing age. If these laws become law, all these clinics will stop providing abortion care, leaving those who can leave the state to get care. (These figures do not include transgender and non-binary people in these states who can become pregnant.)

An anti-abortion lawyer holds up a crucifix as anti-abortion supporters gather at the Indiana State Capitol ahead of the legislature debating a proposal to ban nearly all abortions in the state.  (Photo: Associated Press)

An anti-abortion lawyer holds up a crucifix as anti-abortion supporters gather at the Indiana State Capitol ahead of the legislature debating a proposal to ban nearly all abortions in the state. (Photo: Associated Press)

An anti-abortion lawyer holds up a crucifix as anti-abortion supporters gather at the Indiana State Capitol ahead of the legislature debating a proposal to ban nearly all abortions in the state. (Photo: Associated Press)

Since the Supreme Court overthrown Roe last month, more than a dozen states banned or severely restricted abortion. The verdict leaves behind fear and confusion, legal gray areas and a patchwork of abortion care – all of which will have a disproportionate impact on low-income people, women of color and those living in rural areas. Many people will have to leave the state to have abortions, while others with fewer resources will be forced to endure unwanted pregnancies.

In West Virginia, the state legislature called a special session to propose: House account 302 which would ban abortion in almost all cases, and criminalize and threaten providers with up to 10 years in prison. When state senators voted late Friday night to pass the abortion ban, abortion rights advocates outside the legislature could be heard and protested the restriction.

The bill has minor exceptions for ectopic pregnancies, fatal fetal abnormalities and medical emergencies that are life-threatening, although experts have noted that “life-saving” or emergency medical exceptions are often vague and may put pregnant people at undue medical risk. It also requires doctors to notify a minor’s parents and then wait 48 hours before providing the minor with abortion care — a waiting period necessary even if the minor experiences a life-threatening emergency, such as an ectopic pregnancy.

The ban also includes exceptions for rape and incest victims, thanks to an amendment passed this week. However, the amendment only gives victims access to abortion within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, and they must report the crime to law enforcement before accessing care. Restrictions requiring victims to report to the police before having an abortion are inherently problematic because two in three assaults go unreportedand law enforcement officers can sometimes be the perpetrators of sexual assault.

“If a man decides that I am an object and does unspeakable, tragic things to me, should I, a child, bear and bear another child?” Addison Gardner, 12, said during the public hearing portion of the debate.

“Do I have to let my body go through the physical trauma of pregnancy? Do I have to carry the mental implications, a child who had nothing to say about what was done to my body? she went on.” Some here say she pro- be life. What about my life? Doesn’t my life matter to you?”

The West Virginia abortion ban was passed in the State House earlier this week and in the Senate late Friday night. The bill now goes back to the House to review minor changes before it goes to the governor’s office. Justice is expected to sign the law in the coming days. One of the main proponents of the bill was Justice, who earlier this week added the topic of abortion law to the special session and asked the legislature to “clarify and modernize” the state’s abortion rules.

Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislature last week proposed Senate Bill 1, which would ban abortion from the time of conception. The bill includes exceptions if the pregnant person’s life is in danger, though experts, like the law in West Virginia, argue that these exceptions are poorly worded, leaving doctors in awkward spots that often endanger pregnant people. The bill also includes exceptions for rape and incest, but a victim must sign an affidavit confirming the assault before receiving care.

Earlier this week, Indiana State Senator Mike Young (R) proposed an amendment that would remove the rape and incest exceptions from the bill.

“WWhat you’re telling me is that if they rape the woman, we have to kill the baby,” Young told his colleagues. “That’s not right and I will never, ever accept that.” Young’s amendment failed in the Senate on Thursday night by a vote of 28-18.

The Indiana Senate will vote on SB 1 on Saturday and then be sent to the House. The bill is expected to pass in both the Senate and the House as Republicans control both chambers with supermajorities and the state has a Republican governor. Indiana lawmakers have until August 14 to approve the bill, but party leaders have said the legislature is likely to complete it before that deadline.

Vice President Kamala Harris met with Indiana’s Senate Democrats Monday to express her support for them as they began a protracted effort to block SB 1.

“You don’t have to give up your faith or your beliefs to agree that the government shouldn’t make this decision for it,” Harris said at a roundtable meeting. “An individual should be able to choose according to his personal beliefs and the precepts of his faith. But the government shouldn’t be telling a person what to do, especially when it comes to one of the most intimate and personal decisions a woman can make.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.


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