March 3, 2017

Pro-life bills supported by ICC advance in General Assembly

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

Two pro-life bills supported by the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) have advanced at the midpoint, commonly called “crossover” in the Indiana General Assembly. “Crossover” refers to the midpoint in the legislative session when House bills “crossover” to the other chamber, the Senate, and Senate bills “crossover” to the House.

Senate Bill 404, authored by Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, would require parents seeking to arrange for an abortion for a pregnant minor child to verify their parental status. The measure would prevent adults who are not a minor’s parent from posing as the minor’s parent. The bill also would prohibit a person from aiding or assisting a minor who is pregnant in obtaining an abortion without the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. If an adult did aid and assist a minor in obtaining an abortion without parental consent, it would allow parents to collect damages against an adult who either posed as the minor child’s parent to obtain an abortion, or aided or assisted the minor in obtaining an abortion.

“Currently in Indiana, we have a parental consent law, but we don’t have verification that that person is an actual parent,” said Houchin. As a former Department of Children Services employee, Houchin said she has seen this happen. “We can clarify in our state law that someone must verify they are the parent of a child seeking an abortion.”

Corrine Purvis, an attorney with Bopp Law Firm who serves as general counsel for Indiana Right to Life, testified in support of the bill. She said Senate Bill 404 would strengthen parental rights by protecting parents’ ability to give consent for their minor child to obtain an abortion by ensuring that parental verification is required and enforced. Eight other states require parental verification.

Purvis said the bill also would strengthen parental rights in a judicial bypass process by raising the judicial standard to “clear and convincing evidence” if a minor seeks a judicial bypass to go around parental consent to get permission from a judge to obtain an abortion. The attorney said 15 other states have the clear and convincing evidence, the highest judicial standard, for minors seeking a judicial bypass to obtain an abortion without parental consent.

Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the ICC, who serves as the public policy spokesperson for the bishops in Indiana, testified in support of the bill. He said Senate Bill 404 provides a clarification regarding parental notification and protection of a minor seeking an abortion, and assures notification to the proper authorities. It allows minors to be protected against sexual predators and abuse by persons who may pose as a parent of a minor so the minor can get an abortion.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-4 to advance the bill on Feb. 22, and the full Senate approved the bill. The bill crosses over from the Senate to the House for further consideration.

A bill to add information on the abortion reversal process for chemical abortions to Indiana’s informed consent law also advanced. House Bill 1128, authored by Rep. Ron Bacon, R-Chandler, passed the House Public Policy panel 7-5 on Feb. 21, and later passed the full House 53-41 on Feb. 27.

The bill would add to Indiana’s informed consent law information and referral services for a procedure to reverse a chemical abortion if a woman changed her mind. Reversing a chemical abortion drew disagreement from various local obstetricians and gynecologists. Some physicians who testified cited actual instances of them successfully treating patients with this process to save an unborn child. Other physicians said the process was not based on vetted science.

Bacon said the bill would give women who regret trying to end their pregnancy by taking abortion-inducing drugs a chance to reverse the process and potentially save their unborn child. House Bill 1128 crosses over from the House to the Senate for further consideration.

A third pro-life proposal was introduced this year, but it failed to move. House Bill 1134, authored by Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, would define that human life begins at conception and the state has a compelling interest to protect it. The bill would ban abortion. If passed, the state law would be challenged in federal court based on the long-standing constitutional right to abortion established in the 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.

While the bill didn’t advance this year, Tebbe said it might be “a good thing.” Tebbe explained that the goal of the bill was laudable. However, the timing of the bill was not prudent.

“If the protection at conception bill passed now, it would be challenged in federal court and struck down,” said Tebbe. “There is no guarantee the

U.S. Supreme Court would uphold the state of Indiana’s law to define protection of a human life at conception. If that happened, it could cause the reverse effect of the intent of the bill.”

The ICC offers several public policy and legislative resources on its Web page at www.indianacc.org.
 

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

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